The transcripts of the trial of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia. More…

  • Good morning. We will take appearances first, please.

  • Good morning Mr President, your Honours, counsel. Appearing today for the Prosecution, Stephen Rapp Prosecutor, together with principal trial attorney Brenda Hollis, Mohamed Bangura, Kathryn Howarth, Christopher Santora, Maja Dimitrova and James Johnson. Thank you, your Honour.

  • Thank you, Mr Rapp. Yes, Mr Griffiths.

  • Good morning Mr President, your Honours, counsel opposite. For the Defence today, myself Courtenay Griffiths, assisted by my learned friends Mr Morris Anyah, Mr Terry Munyard and Cllr Supuwood and also our case manager Salla Moilanen. Also we are joined today by the Acting Principal Defender, Mrs Claire Carlton-Hanciles.

  • [Open session]

  • [The accused present]

  • [Upon commencing at 9.30 a.m.]

  • Thank you, Mr Griffiths. I think both parties realise there is an order permitting photography. I don't know what happened, but obviously it has not been followed. The order was in the terms that the photographer shall be in position ten minutes before the start of the proceedings. I see he is not in court at all. He is entitled, once the Court sits, to take photographs for a period of one minute. I will bring the photographer in on this occasion, but if these orders are not followed strictly in future then we will simply overlook the order.

    Today is scheduled for the opening of the Defence case and, as became evident last week at the status conference, the Defence will make an opening statement today. The Court will then adjourn and the Defence will go into evidence tomorrow morning. Having said that, I will call on you, Mr Griffiths.

  • May it please your Honours, we've broken down our address into the following chapters:

    First of all we are going to introduce the topic. We will then provide a brief chronology of how and why we come to be here and we do that for this reason: In opening their case we were told by Stephen Rapp, the Chief Prosecutor, in a speech laced with references to the geopolitics of the region, that:

    "The Prosecutor will seek at all times to ensure that it embodies the fundamental principles of fairness, due process and justice, that, along with the other trials at the Special Court, will help ensure a future respect for the law and the maintenance of a just and peaceful and safe society."

    And in concluding his address to your Honours, what, almost two years ago, in fact over two years ago, he said this:

    "There are those in this world who are ready to uphold the law and to decide that, no matter how high the position of the person responsible, there will be a day of justice."

    Now, we say quite simply and bluntly right at the outset that that claim is simply just not true. When one examines the way in which the Office of the Prosecution have behaved, from the unveiling of the indictment in this case and throughout the investigation and trial, we say that sentiment expressed by the Prosecution at the outset is riddled with hypocrisy and untruth and we must, if we are properly to protect Mr Taylor's interests, address all aspects of the Prosecution case including that.

    Thirdly, we will then look at the reality of this supposed commitment to equality before the law by examining briefly the experience of the previous Defence team. And why do we do this? Simply because Mr Taylor may be asked in cross-examination, and we need of course to anticipate this, "Why did you dispense with your previous Defence team?"

    We will then briefly examine when we, this team, came on board and what was our task and, in light of that analysis, we will then look at what this case is really about. What is the issue? Have the Prosecution truly sought to address that issue? We are here to assist you judges, and it is important that you know what the issues are as we see them, because we appreciate that we are confined in opening our case by Rule 84, a provision of which the learned President of this Court rightly reminded me last Monday. We therefore fully understand that we need to proceed with care.

    Now, having dealt with that, thereafter we will necessarily have to examine the accused's decision to give evidence, because again he might be asked about that. In looking at that we feel that it is equally important that we critically examine the lens through which we should examine his account. So we will examine, first of all, prejudice. We will also go on to examine emotion and the fact that neither can play a role in our task.

    How should the Defence case be examined we say is a very important question. We are then going to go on and look at the Prosecution case and question its adequacy. We do that because we need to define where we say it is lacking in proof and consequently where we can assist you judges in your task by providing further proof, because we want to focus our case on just those aspects of the case.

    Having done that, we will then examine the Defence case. Undoubtedly there will be no problem with that, because at the heart of Rule 84 is what our duty is in that regard. Thereafter finally we will conclude.

    So let us commence. At the outset we make it clear that we are not here to cause offence for the sake of it. We are here to defend a man who we say is innocent of these charges. However, whilst we appreciate that the primary function of this opening address is to outline the case for the Defence in this court of law, it must equally be recognised that this case has been played out over at least six years by the Prosecution in the court of public opinion worldwide. So we are conscious that our audience is far wider than your Honours, the judges in this courtroom. Inevitably we must address that wider audience, so long as of course we adhere to the rules.

    However, we bear in mind also that part of this Court's ambition is to gain international respect for the rule of law, an ambition which it primarily achieves by allowing a wider world to observe and understand its habits, methods of analysis and its findings in the cases it hears. I've already reminded your Honours of the lofty aspirations of the Prosecution in this Court. Our plea must therefore be couched in language and terms appropriate to all who have the opportunity to listen. Sadly, much of West Africa does not have that opportunity. And we are constrained to do so because we deal with reality and not theory, for we say that not many of those who readily want to pass judgment on Charles Taylor truly know the details of this case which covers a period of history in West Africa which, for much of the time, the West and its media completely ignored.

    The United States of America had no time for its love child, unless of course it was perceived to endanger the warped Cold War logic which governed global foreign relations at the birth of this conflict. It has to be remembered that the events we are considering occurred at a time when walls were coming down. So let's move on then and deal with the chronology.

    Charles Taylor was indicted under seal on 7 March 2003. The indictment was announced on 4 June 2003 on his first trip outside of Liberia after the indictment had been imagined into being, we say, by David Crane, the then Chief Prosecutor. Now in a revealing footnote to a prepared statement presented to a hearing before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa on 8 February 2006 that same David Crane, former Chief Prosecutor of this Court said this:

    "The unsealing of the indictment against Charles Taylor, on the day he arrived in Accra, Ghana, for the peace talks in June of 2003 was a calculated move on my part."

    Pause there. Mr Crane of course, that Chief Prosecutor, was present at the opening of the Prosecution case in this courtroom. He was afforded a name check by Stephen Rapp, the Prosecutor, i.e. he was bigged up in front of a worldwide audience. Yet when speaking of that peace he mentioned, it must be remembered that the Statute which established this Court provided that:

    "This Court shall have the power to prosecute persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996, including those leaders who in committing such crimes" - hear this - "have threatened the establishment of and implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone."

    So this is a Court set up for the preservation of peace. Bearing that in mind, here we have the Chief Prosecutor in such a Court attempting to scupper peace in Accra, Ghana, in June of 2003. Why should a Prosecutor in this Court seek to do that, and why did he do that? Charles Taylor will explain why.

    But, in any event, Mr Crane continued:

    "Was a calculated move on my part to publicly strip in front of the world this war lord of his power by my signature on this indictment."

    Pause again. Such ego and hubris. To quote Bob Marley, my countryman, "Working iniquity to achieve vanity".

    Now let's go back to what Mr Crane was saying:

    "It was never intended, that indictment, to force his transfer that day to the tribunal, though we would have accepted him and were ready to arraign him on the charges in the indictment immediately."

    Pause again. So there we have Mr Crane claiming that way back in June of 2003 this Prosecution were ready to proceed. So we ask rhetorically: Why hadn't they sorted out their indictment then? Why was their indictment thereafter edited on so many occasions, occasions of which we will remind this Court. And yet look at the claim that he was making. And he continues:

    "My intent was to humble and humiliate him before his peers, the leaders of Africa, and to serve notice to Taylor and others that the days of impunity in Africa were over."

    Pause again. Why not declare the end of impunity for all international wrongdoers? Why just Africa?

    Then he continues:

    "Taylor is the first African Head of State ever to be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity and only the second in history. His indictment paved the way for the eventual election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first" - note that. "First fairly elected President of Liberia."

    So the Doe election of 1985, at a time when the US was pouring the greatest amount of aid it had ever had into a corrupt regime, a generosity it had never previously shown to its African slave child, and yet we are told that the election in 1997 as well, that too was obviously, given Mr Crane's sentiment, not fair.

    Then he continues:

    "It must be noted" - and listen to this. "It must be noted that the United States was given a copy of the Taylor indictment two months before it was unsealed in June 2003. It was personally given to Walter Kansteiner, then the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, at a breakfast meeting in April of 2003 with the US Ambassador Peter Chaveas at his home in Freetown. Another copy was given to Pierre Prosper, the Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues as well."

    Pausing there. Perhaps we ought to congratulate my learned friend Stephen Rapp on his nomination to soon fill that post.

    But he continues, does Mr Crane:

    "All parties were warned 24 hours in advance of the unsealing, while Taylor was in Accra. The Government of Ghana was served with the indictment and the warrant of arrest the morning of the unsealing of Taylor's indictment."

    Now, one has to ask: Why was the United States of America granted this particular favour two months in advance? And was this Court notified, given that the indictment was under seal, that the seal had indeed been broken? Was it?

    Now, what I've just quoted is a mere footnote hidden away, yet loaded with meaning, particularly when you discover that the same David Crane goes on to say this:

    "The trick to getting a West African leader's attention is cash, plain and simple. Unlike, for example, a British member of parliament."

    Further we say that money has played a crucial part in these proceedings, as we will deal with.

    Now, Charles Taylor was humiliated. That was after all calculated, and I can assure you that he is humbled although only by the trust placed in him by the people of Liberia who rallied to his banner in 1989, including one Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. And those same Liberians elected him freely and fairly in 1997 in an election congratulated by a former US President Jimmy Carter, yet ridiculed by a Prosecutor of this Court.

    However, I can assure you that he is certainly not humbled by this ill-conceived, revenge-seeking Prosecution.

    Now in August of 2003 he stepped down, resigned as President and went into exile in Nigeria. How many times has that happened in Africa? Ian Smith in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was certainly reluctant to do so in the face of mounting pressure until forced by the anti-imperialist struggle to step down. Sadly, many others may have inherited his stubbornness in that country; an unwillingness to go. And let me not start on South Africa and apartheid.

    Yet here was Taylor going without a whimper, and he is such a bad man. And that going was done by agreement; a deal brokered by Africans for Africans, backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. Yet despite that agreement he was handed over by the Nigerians to the Liberians and from thence to the Special Court for Sierra Leone on 29 March 2006. It does sound calculated, doesn't it?

    And three months later, like an illegal immigrant, refugee or worse, and for those of an historical mind, in reverse, he was taken in chains from the shores of Africa and taken to Holland, thousands of miles away. The country of one of the colonisers of the black race for centuries. A historically familiar journey for some. So that was the challenge we faced as his Defence.

    Now, those originally instructed to defend Charles Taylor struggled valiantly, despite an appalling lack of resources, to protect his interests. This was despite the gross disparity in the resources available to the Defence, particularly when compared to the largesse available to the Prosecution, which even included a fund, the source of which we have been unable to identify and out of which lavish payments have been made to witnesses.

    Yet, despite this, that Defence team struggled on until the summer of 2007 when the injustice of the situation forced Charles Taylor to withdraw his cooperation with this Court. Consequently, an attempted start of this trial, on 4 June 2007, was swiftly aborted and we were brought on board shortly afterwards in an atmosphere of panic. This is how we come to be here.

    We sought and were granted four months to prepare and thereafter deal with a Prosecution case involving voluminous documentation, a case which they had taken years to prepare. Yet after a few months' preparation, we dealt with this case efficiently and professionally. And why? Because it's the job of the experienced advocate to quickly locate the essence of a case and thereafter seek, for the sake of efficiency and brevity, to conclude it as swiftly as possible. That we have always sought to do. So that this case proceeded from 7 January 2008 to 27 February 2009 without hardly a hitch or delay. Unprecedented, in my experience of almost 30 years, for a trial of this complexity and logistical difficulties. This was 91 witnesses and 14 months later.

    And why was that? That was because we defined the issue here as being simple. We stated it at an early stage and it remains our position. Consequently, it is not surprising that the Prosecution themselves observed in opening this case, and I quote - the quote was to the effect that the essence of their indictment was how to link Mr Taylor to these crimes. Consequently, we said this case should not have been about what in fact happened in Sierra Leone; there was no issue about that. It should solely have been about who bore the greatest responsibility, there being ample proof that he had made, that is Mr Taylor, strenuous efforts to achieve peace in Sierra Leone, remembering of course the words of the Statute. Proof which we will provide in abundant documentary form. Proof available to the Prosecution, but which they ignored.

    We consequently do not and never have taken issue with the fact that terrible things, atrocities, were committed in Sierra Leone. We've never done that. We still cannot therefore understand why more than half of the witnesses called were so-called crime base witnesses to prove a fact not in dispute.

    Let me assist with one or two statistics. Ninety-one Prosecution witnesses were called. Of those, 52 were so-called crime base witnesses. Thirty-three were so-called linkage witnesses.

    But also appreciate this: The case having begun in January 2008, by September of the same year, so nine months later, 27 of the 33 linkage witnesses had been called by September. So effectively by September of last year the Prosecution had called the vast bulk of the evidence available to them on the central issue in dispute, and yet we spent from September right through until February of this year listening to some 42 crime base witnesses giving evidence about the horror of their experience, a matter not in dispute.

  • Excuse me, Mr President. I am reticent to rise, but the purpose of an opening statement is to talk about the evidence that the Defence intends to present. They are talking about evidence that the Prosecution presented, numbers - I think the record reflects that all but two of these crime base witnesses the Defence objected to presenting in written form and we are hearing more argument at this stage. This is probably fit for closing rather than for telling us what kind of evidence we are going to receive from the Defence.

  • Yes, Mr Griffiths.

  • Where I come from, Mr President, it's regarded as rude to interrupt opposing counsel's opening speech or closing address. It's normal, in my experience, for such comments to be reserved until the address has been concluded.

    But, in any event, we say given the latitude afforded to Mr Rapp when he was opening the Prosecution case, we submit that we are perfectly entitled to make the points that we do, particularly as we do so, we say, in order to set out the issues which we set out from the outset which we feel we have to address. We cannot just go into a recitation of the Defence evidence without any kind of context.

  • Well, firstly, I can tell you, Mr Griffiths, that when the Prosecution made its opening statement the Court took care to confine the Prosecution as much as possible to the evidence it intended to present. And as you've already made comment, you are well aware of the requirements of Rule 84. But we are of the view that what you are saying now is tied in with evidence that you are going to present anyway and we think that you are doing your best to lay out the Defence case, so we are going to overrule the objection, but we will direct your mind now to what Rule 84 requires of you.

  • Very well, Mr President. In any event, your Honours, having defined the issue as we did, we resolved not to be distracted from the central question. That question being: How do you, the Prosecution, say he is responsible? Yet we say still, more than six years after the Office of the Prosecution first formulated the indictment, it remains uncertain where it should be precise.

    Thus, all of the following are suggested by the Prosecution: Article 6.1 of the Court Statute explicitly lists five ways in which Charles Taylor could be held responsible for the atrocities that took place in Sierra Leone. That Article holds individually criminally responsible or accountable persons who planned, instigated, ordered, committed or aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of a crime within the Court's jurisdiction.

    In addition, there is a sixth route by which they claim he is liable. That sixth way in which Mr Taylor could be held criminally responsible by this Court is pursuant to Article 6.3 of its Statute, but only to the extent that somebody - that he, Mr Taylor, exercised authority over as a superior someone who committed a crime within the Court's jurisdiction, and that he knew or had reason to know that his subordinate was about to commit such acts or had done so and he, Taylor, failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof.

    Now, the final route, the final way in which Charles Taylor could be held individually responsible, is under a theory of joint criminal enterprise, or JCE; something which those of you who have been following this case know has attained infamous status because of how tortured its various formulations have been since the first indictment in March 2003. With this supposed route to conviction, there have been so many different formulations of it during the course of this case that it's, frankly speaking, difficult for one to keep track of what case Mr Taylor is supposed to answer. Let us just trace that development.

    Stage one: In the first indictment that was signed by David Crane it was alleged that Mr Taylor participated in the joint criminal enterprise as "part of his continuing efforts to gain access to the mineral wealth of Sierra Leone and to destabilise the Government of Sierra Leone."

    Stage two: When Prosecutor Desmond de Silva filed the amended indictment on 7 March 2006 the phrase "joint criminal enterprise" was nowhere to be found in the indictment. Indeed, it had been deleted from the indictment in its entirety.

    Phase three: Over a year later, on 4 April 2007, a couple of months before the trial was due to start, and after several years of preparation, when the Prosecution filed its pre-trial brief in this case we began to see the emergence of diamonds as an expressly stated reason for Mr Taylor's alleged participation in the common plan of the JCE. The pre-trial brief alleged that Mr Taylor "participated in a common plan, design or purpose, to gain and maintain political power and physical control over the territory of Sierra Leone, in particular the diamond mining areas in order to exploit the natural resources of the country." They went on to add, "Implementation of this common plan included overthrowing the Government of Sierra Leone."

    Stage four: A few weeks later, during my learned friend Mr Rapp's opening statement on 4 June 2007, he said that Mr Taylor was "responsible for the development and execution of a plan to take political and physical control of Sierra Leone in order to exploit its abundant natural resources and to establish a friendly or subordinate government there to facilitate that exploitation."

    However, stage five: When you judges in this Chamber rendered your judgment on 20 June 2007 in the AFRC case and ruled that an alleged common purpose to take any actions necessary to gain and exercise political power and control over the territory of Sierra Leone, in particular the diamond mining areas, was not an international crime, nor a crime punishable under Statute, the Prosecution panicked and filed, on 3 August 2007, version five, an amended case summary, alleging there that the common plan that was shared by Mr Taylor and other participants in the JCE was to inflict a campaign of terror on the citizens of Sierra Leone in order to pillage the resources of Sierra Leone, in particular the diamonds, and to forcibly control the population and territory of Sierra Leone. Yes, it had become terrorism.

    Now, I wonder where that term "terrorism" came from, at a time when the so-called war on terror is still ongoing, a war which has dominated our lives for over a decade.

    So we say now, now that we've reached June/July 2009, which is it? Diamonds? Or is it political control? Or is it overthrowing the Government of Sierra Leone? Or is it terrorising the citizens of Sierra Leone? Which is it?

    Why are we, several years down the line, faced with this lucky dip of a Prosecution as a supposed pathway to proof? We say the indictment is still unclear, six years after it was first unveiled.

    What kind of a Prosecution, we say, is this: Take your choice because we're not sure. And this is the party to these proceedings which bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and they themselves, clearly, by the history of their behaviour, are not sure.

    We say had Mr Crane, all those years ago, concentrated more time on doing his job as a lawyer and less as a politician, had he concentrated on his job as a lawyer rather than seeking to humiliate and humble an African, then maybe we would have a clearer idea today as to why we are here.

    So moving on. The decision to give evidence. Since he was taken to Freetown, Mr Taylor has not said a word in his own defence. He has kept his own counsel. This is his first and perhaps only chance to give his account. Now he takes the opportunity to put forward his defence, not because in law he has to, but because he wants to. He feels it's important to set the historical record straight.

    Nevertheless, before he sets out his case, he appreciates that he faces some important hurdles, so let us address them directly right at the outset.

    The first, we acknowledge - yes, the first is the deeply ingrained popular prejudice against Mr Taylor, held by so many who have not listened or observed the full and dreadful story of what happened in West Africa from 1989 to 2003 and what had led to it; a decade and a half period of bitter tears, still bleeding wounds, destruction and death. Images of trauma, human suffering and inhumanity more easily erased from the memory than remembered because of their sheer brutality. All of this happening in the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia, a part of the world blessed in so many ways and endowed with such great beauty. Yes, I'm talking about that prejudice, based, we say, on lies. Based on unsubstantiated rumour and hearsay without independent support. That public opinion, which has already given its outspoken verdict and condemned Charles Taylor. Yes, I'm talking about that prejudice which nullifies objectivity, neutralises independence of thought and thereby corrupts justice.

    Surely we are all here for more than that. Surely we are here for more than humiliation at the stroke of a pen which says more about the humanity of the speaker than the justice of the cause, because none of us should be here to speculate. No, we are not here to do that.

    Neither are we here to make intelligent guesses. No, we are not here to pursue theories. For example, that Taylor was a despot, Africa's Napoleon, bent on taking over the subregion. We are certainly not here to act on suspicions, hunches or sixth senses, or indeed on hearsay alone. We do live our lives on instincts, but we are not here to exercise instincts, to motor on on automatic. Because here in a criminal court things slow down, because here what is required is proof, the application of logic and intellectual honesty, so that when each of us arrives at our individual verdicts we can say, hand on heart, that those verdicts were not influenced by prejudice, a previously held view unchanged by the evidence. Because a definition of a fair trial has been handed down to us after centuries of struggle and it is a definition to which we should hold fast in a court of law. Guilt must be punished without prejudice and where there is no guilt then, once again, prejudice must not be allowed to rear its head.

    This being so, before we come to deal with the charges themselves we have certain requests to make of everyone listening. We are addressing our audience now.

    Firstly, that everyone approaches the case without preconceived opinions, since nothing else would be fair. For if we, coming to observe a tribunal of this kind, insist on basing our judgment upon conclusions that we have previously formed ready-made, instead of deciding in accordance with the facts, then none of us would have the right to say that we have fairly stood in judgment. Frankly, your reputation as judges would be gone.

    However, let us suppose that you have formed a preconceived opinion all the same. Then in that case what we demand is this: If you find that our reasoning uproots that opinion, if our argument undermines it, if truth destroys it, please, we say, do not resist, but rather dismiss those preconceived ideas from your mind and seek to arrive at a verdict in light of the facts you find proved, drawing proper and reasoned conclusions from the evidence. Because to do otherwise, frankly, merely strengthens the very mischief we are all seeking to prevent.

    We also need to beware of emotion because emotion is no useful guide to us in our task. We must be dispassionate, carefully analytical and objective in our assessment of that evidence. No one who has seen the sad procession through this courtroom of hurt human beings, reliving the most grotesque trauma, would have been unmoved. We are human too, even whilst we declare this accused man to be not guilty of the charges he faces. We are humans too.

    Fifty-two out of 91 Prosecution witnesses called were crime base witnesses. All these witnesses later, images of unspeakable human suffering later, must have an effect and we appreciate that it may well skew rational and logical thought and thereby erode any notion of justice. We must therefore consciously guard against this in deciding whether any material fact has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Moving on. In opening the Prosecution case we were told that this case involved one overarching crime, the crime of terrorism. Thus they planned to terrorise the civilian populations of West Africa, but, as I've already indicated, they also intended to take political and physical control of Sierra Leone in order to exploit its abundant natural resources and to establish a friendly or subordinate government there to facilitate that exploitation. Yet it's the indictment which should provide the road map to guilt. As with all maps, we expect them to be drafted with precision and that they can be trusted, otherwise we could get lost.

    Now, the first indictment against Charles Taylor was signed by David Crane on 3 March 2003 and filed with this Court on 7 March of that year. An amended indictment was signed on 16 March 2006 by Sir Desmond de Silva, as he now is, and filed with the Court on 7 March.

    That was the second indictment against Charles Taylor and it had annexed to it something called a case summary. Case summary accompanying the amended indictment, a document which purported to elaborate further on the bare bones, as it were, of the amended indictment. Less than one week before 4 June when the trial against Mr Taylor was expected to start, the current Chief Prosecutor, Mr Stephen Rapp, signed what would be the third indictment to be issued in this case against Mr Taylor, with the filing on 29 May 2007 of the Prosecution's second amended indictment.

    Again, and much like with the amended indictment that Prosecutor de Silva had filed, a document called a case summary accompanying the second amended indictment was filed by the Prosecution on 3 August 2007 purporting to elaborate on the charges that were contained in the 29 May second amended indictment.

    Let us now examine, for the purposes of our case, the detail of that indictment. One or two salient facts immediately become clear. The first is this: The vast bulk of the charges relate to three provinces in eastern Sierra Leone; Kono, Kailahun and Kenema. Other provinces are implicated, but, in terms of the time line, only briefly.

    Now, turning to that time line, bearing in mind, of course, the terms of the Statute which set up this Court, and starting from the outer limits and working in, the plan to which Mr Taylor is said to be party was supposedly hatched in Libya in the 1980s. It was put into effect when he invaded Liberia on Christmas Eve 1989. So at one end that's the outer limit. We know at the other end, August 2003 he steps down and goes into exile.

    Let's just bring the boundaries in a little further now. We know that thereafter the indictment period dates from the Abidjan Peace Accord, 30 November 1996, through to President Kabbah declaring peace in January 2002. But even within those parameters, the real core of this indictment effectively dates from February 1998 to the end of January 1999, a period when, as the Prosecution rightly stated in their opening, the violence in Sierra Leone reached a crescendo. So, in effect, what we are here dealing with is roughly a 12 month period, from February 1998 through to the end of January 1999. Why those parameters?

    February 1998 is the ECOMOG intervention, when we say a group of Sierra Leonean soldiers who had formed the junta regime, the AFRC regime, felt disgruntled, downright annoyed and angry that a force of Nigerians, without any sanction from the United Nations or anybody else, kicked them out of power in Freetown. Thereafter history shows that those same disgruntled soldiers went on a campaign and orgy of violence which took them to the north of Sierra Leone, returning back to the western district late in the year of 1998 and thereafter, on 6 January 1999, wreaked havoc and destruction in Freetown.

    That is what is at the core of this case and that is what we shouldn't lose sight of. Yes, there are counts which extend beyond that time frame, but that period is really at the heart of this Prosecution and that's what we ought to concentrate on.

    Now, having examined that, let us remind ourselves also that although the indictment itself is set in narrow limits in terms of time and territory, here November 1996 to January 2002, solely limited to Sierra Leone, the evidence nonetheless placed before this Court and relied on traverses a much wider historical and geographical period. Thus, in terms of the time line, we were told that the plan at the heart of this design "was formulated in Libya by the accused". That's a long time outside the indictment period.

    Further, in geographical terms, much evidence has been called of events in Liberia from the likes of Hassan Bility and TF1-590, none of which, on the face of it, seemed to have much to do with the issue at hand, rather than a search for prejudicial evidence.

    So the narrow limits set by the Statute have been exceeded considerably. This expansion, whilst not accepted, has to be addressed. Consequently, the Defence case cannot be dealt with within a narrow compass. So let me then turn now to the Defence case.

    Now, the accused does take issue with the Prosecution allegation that he, by reason of any of the modes of liability alleged in the indictment, was responsible for any of the crimes charged. He says, simply, "I am not guilty of these crimes." In a sentence, he says, "How could I have been micromanaging a conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone as alleged when I, as newly elected President of the Republic of Liberia, had so much on my plate to deal with?" Bearing in mind the core of the indictment is conveniently situated during the period of his presidency, and he says, "How could I have been micromanaging all of these radio operators, these bodyguards, these low level individuals who claim to have been in direct contact with Mr Taylor when I'm running a country besieged on several sides, firstly by ULIMO, then LURD, then MODEL? How could I?"

    Now, in giving evidence in his defence it must be borne in mind at all times that he bears no obligation to prove his innocence. His protection is that it's for the Prosecution to prove his guilt. That is because criminal trials have come, at least in those societies committed to the rule of law, to be governed by a certain logic. It is a logic a long time in the making; very painful in the making in terms of suffering in the achievement of it. However, with that principle firmly in mind, it is anticipated that Mr Taylor's testimony will cover the following areas:

    Firstly he is going to deal with his personal background including, among other things, his background, history, and education. And why is that necessary? It's because it feeds in his origins, that is, into the ethnic politics of Liberia and historical tension between the Congo Town set, the American Liberians that is, and the rest of the indigenous population. A conflict which has been at the heart of Liberian politics for well over a century. So that's why we are looking at the background because, frankly, that background is a history of racism, constructed elsewhere but transferred to Africa. And here we will, of necessity, have to pause to consider the relationship between the United States of America and its prodigal child in Africa.

    Having dealt with that, we will go on to consider his involvement in ULAA, the Union of Liberian Associations in America, an association which began whilst he was studying in the United States of America.

    Having dealt with that, we will deal with his involvement with the government of Samuel Doe and also his increasing disenchantment with the Doe regime.

    Having done that, we will look at the Quiwonkpa attempted coup and its aftermath, so brutally predictable as Doe of the minority Krahn ethnic group mobilised his largely Krahn army under the command of a fellow Krahn, the notorious inhumane General Charles Julu, who, after murdering and mutilating Quiwonkpa who was captured after the aborted coup, the ex-general's decapitated body was displayed in a public square in Monrovia. After that, Julu was unleashed to pacify Nimba County, ancestral home of Quiwonkpa. Julu's army carried out brutalities unprecedented in even Doe's violent Liberia, killing thousands of defenceless peasants, destroying homes, pillaging businesses and farms and raping women. Thousands fled in terror and horror to neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire, and memories of those atrocities were still fresh in the minds of Nimba residents when, on Christmas Eve of 1989, some 100 Special Forces of the NPFL, armed with a couple of hunting rifles purchased in the Cote d'Ivoire, entered the town of Butuo in Nimba County.

    They were mostly drawn from the Gio and Mano ethnic groups of Nimba County that were persecuted under Doe's regime. They made rapid progress. The choice of Nimba County as a launch pad was deliberate and strategic as the NPFL ranks swelled overnight with willing and adventurous recruits, many undoubtedly seeking revenge for the depredations of the Doe regime.

    Further, scores of dissidents who had gathered and congregated outside of Liberia also flocked to the banner of the NPFL, united in one cause; the elimination of Doe and his ethnic Krahn and Mandingo supporters and the seizure of power. Bluntly, it was about taking power.

    Now, Mr Taylor will also deal with his arrest by the United States authorities at the request of the Doe government. That too has to be a part of the overall picture, otherwise we may fail to understand the real issues and the real forces at work behind the scene.

    However, when saying that, much of what we say about the background to these events is a matter of historical record and in the circumstances we see no need to burden this tribunal at this stage with further details.

    However, Mr Taylor will go on to detail the history of the formation of the NPFL, carrying on a tradition in the name of the glorious attempt by Quiwonkpa. Mr Taylor didn't invent the name NPFL. That was Quiwonkpa. So he was merely taking up a banner which had been so brutally crushed by Doe.

    Now, he will deal with the motivation behind the organisation of the NPFL and its philosophy. He will accept that his forces were trained in Libya, he will accept that, and that they were indeed Special Forces and he will remind us that this training took place during a period of pan-Africanist movement and struggle, and he will also explain the need to see that development against the background of a Cold War nearing its end in the face of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the construction of a world with just one superpower, the United States, and its important ally, the United Kingdom, which had a stake, we remind ourselves, in Sierra Leone and which also the same United Kingdom feared the emergence of Nigeria as a regional superpower.

    Mr Taylor will remind us that there were groups at that camp in Libya from all over Africa and the rest of the world. He will tell us about that. And he well tell us, in terms of that period, that he was in contact with a group of Sierra Leoneans, this is in Libya, amongst others. But the Sierra Leoneans, that group he was in contact with in Libya, they were called the Sierra Leonean African Revolutionary Movement, Pan-African Revolutionary Movement. Let me say that again. The Sierra Leonean Pan-African Revolutionary Movement. They were not called the RUF.

    And he will also tell us that one Ali Kabbah, a former student dissident from Freetown, and also a relative of Tejan Kabbah, the former President of Sierra Leone - that it was that Ali Kabbah who was in charge of the Sierra Leoneans in Libya.

    However, he will refute the suggestion that he combined with either Ali Kabbah or others in Libya to pursue a design to terrorise the civilian population of Sierra Leone. He will totally refute and reject that.

    He will assert that such a suggestion is completely contrary to the revolutionary and liberating ideology which informed the actions of those who trained in Libya and the spirit of comradeship which infused their actions thereafter.

    He will point to the hypocrisy of the Prosecution on this point. Whereas they accept, and again I quote Mr Rapp from his opening, "by the early 1990s, Sierra Leonean citizens had grievances against the government in place." That is accepted. Yet nonetheless the same Prosecution seek to illegitimate and demean their attempt to do something about their condition by labelling them terrorists. Thus the Prosecution say, "Some say the RUF was fighting in Sierra Leone for a kind of national liberation for the betterment of the people of that country, but we submit that there was really only a thin veneer of ideology that masked the real motive of destruction and exploitation. In other words, they were, from the outset, merely a bunch of bandits, thieves, murderers and rapists. That's all they were." That's the suggestion.

    Now, the accused will also further deal with his relationship with President Momoh of Sierra Leone and his presence in that country in the late 1980s.

    Thereafter, he will recount the launch of the Liberian revolution from the neighbouring territory of Cote d'Ivoire. He will detail how, despite the fact that at the outset of the revolution he could call upon less than 200 trained Special Forces, he could quickly call upon tens of thousands of ordinary Liberians. Ordinary Liberians motivated by their detestation of the cruelty and carnage of the Doe regime and how, with that force, they quickly routed Doe's army.

    He will go on to describe how the phenomena - that dreadful phenomena of child soldiers had existed in this part of Africa, and indeed elsewhere, and had been a feature in many instances of civil war and armed insurrections around the world well before Charles Taylor emerged on the scene, as the Prosecution's own expert, Stephen Ellis, was forced to concede.

    Child soldiers were not a Charles Taylor invention. Let me repeat. Child soldiers were not a Charles Taylor invention. The RUF did not need to look to him and his NPFL for a role model, although it is accepted that the brutality of the Doe's regime soldiers and supporters, particularly in Nimba County, had given it a terrible impetus with many children left as orphans, with no refuge except within the ranks of the NPFL. But those children, he will tell you, were used in various roles other than combat.

    Now, in recounting this history, he will further describe the attempts, fraught with practical difficulties, made to impose discipline within the ranks of the NPFL. Having dealt with that, he will explain his relations with the RUF, his knowledge, or lack thereof, of its creation.

    He will further describe the unplanned nature of the spillage of conflict from Liberia to Sierra Leone. A consequence in large measure of the historically known links between the two societies and the porous border between the two countries, a fact accepted by the Prosecution when in opening they said:

    "Sierra Leone is located in a region where borders exist only on paper. These lines were drawn in the colonial period and do not follow ethnic or linguistic groups. Many in up-country border areas have closer relations to people across the border than to those in their own capital cities, which can be said with force particularly about Kailahun and that part of eastern Sierra Leone."

    And he will question, in looking at that history, whether such a peaceful people as the Sierra Leoneans undoubtedly are - whether they are in denial of their own clearly recognised hand in the carnage visited upon themselves and thus are forced to look to another to bear the guilt.

    Now, the accused will deny the allegation that he controlled the RUF. He will further deny any formal association with Foday Sankoh or the suggestion that he was party to a joint criminal enterprise with Foday Sankoh which dated from the 1980s in Libya.

    In particular, the accused will refute the suggestion that as leader of the NPFL, and later as President of Liberia, he was involved in any formal supply of arms and ammunition or other war materiel to the RUF or AFRC. He will assert that this was never the official policy of the NPFL or the Liberian government whilst he was President. He will also explain the situation surrounding arms and ammunition supply in Liberia at that time and the impossibility for him to provide such materiel as suggested by the Prosecution.

    The accused will also describe the intervention of ECOWAS in the Liberian conflict through the deployment of ECOMOG. He will explain that the contributing countries to that ECOMOG force were pursuing a policy aimed at denying the NPFL the fruits of their success in mobilising the Liberian populace against tyranny. He will outline the hypocrisy of some of those contributing countries who, whilst proclaiming that they were in Liberia to promote peace, nonetheless funded and assisted first the LUDF and ULIMO to launch an illegal war against the NPFL and, by extension, the Liberian people and thereby extend by several years the suffering of that same Liberian people.

    Life under NPFL rule in Greater Liberia will be described. The repeated attempts to promote peace and disarmament in Liberia will be outlined and the efforts of the accused to bring about that happy outcome. The process of disarmament in Liberia will be explained and the successful transition to democratic elections in a war-ravaged country. This aspect of his evidence is directly relevant to the erroneous suggestion that he was in a position to provide arms to the RUF.

    The general elections of July 1997 will be described, along with the resounding victory achieved by the accused in elections internationally observed to be free and fair, yet derided by this Prosecution. The accused will go on to describe the challenges of governing a post civil war society, historically divided, as he will explain, between Congo Town and indigenous, historically driven by factionalism and how he was having to contend with that whilst denied access to foreign inward investment to rebuild a ravaged infrastructure.

    He will explain how he repeatedly sought to secure the Liberian-Sierra Leonean border to confirm his continued assertion that the Liberian government were not assisting the RUF, and further to contain the contagion of war and thereby permit his efforts to rebuild the Liberian economy. We have ample United Nations documentation to support that.

    He will also testify on the safe-keeping and destruction of all arms, ammunition and artillery handed in during disarmament in 1997 before the general election, destroyed by the United Nations with the approval of his government.

    We say that in the case of Charles Taylor, here we have a leader kept fully occupied by Liberia's national affairs seeking to repair the past and at the same time anticipating the possible demands of the future, the arrangements by which peace had to be established, the powers needed to defend the republic, these are the matters to which he devoted himself and over which he exercised a degree of control.

    Matters of the utmost importance for his country engrossed his continual attention so that he scarcely had time to breathe. In these circumstances it is surely not very surprising if, from time to time, there was something or another which escaped his notice.

    He will point out the obvious historical fact that the AFRC coup in Sierra Leone predated his coming to power as President of Liberia. He was engaged in a general election at the time, with the concomitant conclusion that he played no part in the ousting of the Kabbah government. There has been no evidence called to suggest that he played any part whatsoever in the AFRC coup in May of 1997; none whatsoever. Not a shred of it.

    Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that those who seized power so illegally in Sierra Leone had no historical link whatsoever with Charles Taylor. He will testify and deny any suggestion that he provided the AFRC with any arms and ammunition, although he will accept that overtures were made to him when he became President by the junta regime. He will accept that. But he will say that he rebuffed those overtures in accordance with ECOWAS policy to which he was a party.

    He will go on to outline Liberia's appointment to the Committee of Five after he became President and his own personal commitment to the overriding objective of that body, namely, to bring peace to the subregion as mandated by ECOWAS. He will point out that it was in late 1997 that Liberia was made a member of the Committee of Five on Sierra Leone and placed on the front line by his colleagues in ECOWAS to get personally involved in helping to bring peace to Sierra Leone.

    And, again, we will provide ample written evidence from other members of the Committee of Five showing that he was personally requested to play that role and his selection for the role should be obvious.

    Why not let a former rebel deal with rebels? And, after all, they do share a common border. So he will testify about his involvement in dealing with the many ceasefire agreements between February 1998 to 2000. He will deal with the breakdown of those agreements and his efforts to put things back together again in order to ensure the continuation of peace.

    He will deal with his part in the Lome agreement, the progress towards that agreement, efforts to destabilise that agreement and consequently his involvement in the West Side/Okra Hills situation, his involvement with the removal of Johnny Paul Koroma from Sierra Leone to Liberia to preserve peace, the moving of Sankoh and Johnny Paul Koroma from Liberia to Sierra Leone, a fact fully documented in United Nations records which show that it was at the behest of others that he became involved in that process.

    He will also deal with the extraction of Sam Bockarie in December 1999 from Sierra Leone to Liberia, again a fact fully documented in United Nations records. That was done not because, as suggested, of some longstanding relationship between Taylor and Bockarie but, rather, in an effort to preserve peace which Bockarie was threatening and we have the records to prove it.

    He will also deal with the appointment of Issa Sesay as the leader of the RUF, again not because he was the man in control of the RUF but because a collective decision was taken at ECOWAS level that because of the situation of Sankoh they needed someone to deal with within the RUF and he was the one reputed to bring that about.

    And yet now everything is turned on its head, and that is now used against him as evidence of his control when he was merely acting in accordance with United Nations policy which those people on the other side of this room know about, and had they had the diligence to find the documentation and place it before this Court we would not have been proceeding on a misconception these past few months.

    So he will deal with that, and he will deal with the subsequent final peace in Sierra Leone, all of which were done with the knowledge, consent, and participation of ECOWAS and the United Nations. There is ample documentary proof of it. And he will say that these activities in which he engaged was, in fact, carried out on behalf of ECOWAS, and at no stage was he acting in an individual capacity as President of Liberia.

    Goodwill on his part, he will say, has been turned on its head in a desperate, vain attempt to find proof. He will also vehemently deny the suggestion that he played any part in the orgy of violence which followed the ECOMOG intervention in Freetown in February 1998 and which led to the removal of the AFRC regime. In like terms, he will deny any involvement in the carnage and brutality popularly described as the Freetown invasion of 6 January 1999.

    He will point to the clear historical record which makes clear who were the real perpetrators of that particular atrocity. Yet, as I indicated earlier, the vast bulk of the indictment is concerned with that core period in the history of Sierra Leone, the period when "the campaign of terror against civilians, not combatants, reached its peak". That is the period which needs to be examined with care. It falls squarely within the indictment period.

    In this regard - yes, in this regard, we will ask this Court to note the shadowy role of certain foreign powers whose pursuit of their own selfish interests in the region led to the continuation of the war in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. He will point in particular to the role played by such mercenary groups as Executive Outcomes and Sandline and the hypocrisy of the international community in denying Charles Taylor the wherewithal to protect his people against the depredations of foreign financed and supported militias while failing to condemn the actions of others like the United Kingdom government who acted in clear breach of United Nations injunctions.

    By way of example he will show how the first attacks of LURD followed shortly after the destruction by the Liberian government of arms and ammunition handed in during the ceasefire in Liberia. We say it was not just a coincidence.

    He will also explain that despite these domestic pressures his colleagues on the Committee of Five still sought his involvement in the Sierra Leonean crisis and implored him to bring the parties together to achieve a lasting peace.

    Remember the words of the Statute, we say. "Threatened the establishment of and implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone."

    So yes, he will be explaining how these same colleagues, aided and abetted by the United Nations Secretary-General, and others, prevailed upon him from 1997 to 2001 to play a front line role in the conflict as a broker for peace. He will describe in detail his efforts to defend a fledgling democracy in Liberia from the predations of foreign supported factions. Let us ask ourselves, who supported LURD and funded them? Who supported, funded and organised MODEL? Groups bent on overthrowing his government and promoting war and dissension in Liberia.

    It's called regime change. That's what it's called. We don't like you, so we will get rid of you. It is called regime change. And he will go on to explain how he sought to promote peace in the region, particularly to bring an end to the conflict in Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, whilst at the same time struggling to defend his country from that foreign inspired assault.

    Whilst facing continued efforts to destabilise Liberia he will explain the prominent continuing crucial and well-documented role he played in bringing about a successful agreement to the peace talks in Lome.

    Now he may, if it's deemed necessary, explain the efforts made by the Liberian government to obtain the materiels necessary to defend his country. He may do that if it's thought to be necessary. But in doing so he will assert the unchallengeable right of a people to defend itself. It's called self-defence. And it's no offence.

    And he will also explain his relationship with Sam Bockarie and his efforts to achieve the removal of Bockarie to Liberia, at the behest of ECOWAS and the United Nations, in order to preserve the promise of Lome.

    In the same vein, he will describe the positive role he played in securing the release of the United Nations peacekeepers, and the fact that throughout that episode he acted with the full backing, oversight and support of the United Nations.

    He will finally describe the end game, the final destruction of this democracy in Liberia by foreign supported factions.

    He will describe his efforts to bring an end to the suffering of the Liberian people. He will describe the clear and you may feel shocking attempt by David Crane, Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court, to scupper the peace talks in Accra in March 2003 by timing the unveiling of the indictment against him to coincide with those efforts. Remember the words of the Statute. We say that was a case of a supposed minister of justice seeking to scupper attempts at peace, precisely what this Court is supposed to be about, and thus the saving of life.

    He will describe how he magnanimously agreed to take the unprecedented step of standing down as democratically elected President of Liberia in order to spare his people continued suffering from yet more civil war against his democratically elected - let us not forget - government.

    And he will describe how the agreement which led to that momentous decision, him standing down, was backed by the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and several African leaders and how that agreement was betrayed and he was handed over, contrary to the agreement, to this Court for trial.

    How many in Africa step down peacefully and hand over power? Power, yes, that addictive thing, so peacefully? How many do that?

    And let us remind ourselves that it is not just black Africans who have refused to hand over power in the face of the greatest obstacles. The most embedded examples are of white men refusing to hand over. Ian Smith in Rhodesia and that vile apartheid regime in South Africa. Those are the best examples.

    We will seek to expose the corruption at the heart of this Prosecution, how evidence has been bought and been secured through favours. Many may have become bored with our efforts to expose this aspect of the Prosecution case, but we have persisted because justice cannot be polluted in this way, in our eyes. It is much too precious for that.

    Mr Taylor will bluntly declare that his trial is political and he will point, among other things, to the failure to indict former President Tejan Kabbah, despite his role as defence minister in the Sierra Leonean government throughout the formation and deployment of the CDF, even though he must, the same President Kabbah, on any objective analysis of the phrase "persons bearing the greatest responsibility" - he must have been a more appropriate candidate for indictment than Hinga Norman, the deputy - remember - defence minister. So we ask why was Kabbah spared and not Taylor? Why?

    And we also point to, in that regard, the statements of David Crane at various times during his tenure of the role of Chief Prosecutor, and others who have followed him in that role. They are all important matters, but we ask you to underline this concern: Why, so many years after this indictment was unveiled, are we still faced with this lucky dip? Why? Pick-your-choice kind of a Prosecution.

    Now, in concluding, we know that what we have to say during our case may take some time. We acknowledge that things may not always run smoothly during the currency of our case because, frankly, we are still preparing it. But, nonetheless, experience should teach us that truth is often to be found only through a slow and painful process. That same experience should teach - it should teach us that it's better that we take time to achieve a fair verdict than rush the judgment, because then we may have to deal with the human pain of a miscarriage of justice, and undoing that kind of pain takes time. So, rather, let us give ourselves the time to do justice first time around. Those are my submissions, your Honours.

  • Well, thank you, Mr Griffiths. Are there any other matters before we adjourn? All right. Well, the Defence is --

  • I am sorry, your Honour.

  • I was asking, Mr Griffiths, if there are any other matters before we adjourn.

  • I think Mr Taylor was giving me some instructions on that. I wonder if I could have a moment.

    There is a matter, your Honours, which Mr Taylor would like me to raise with you at this moment. Bearing in mind that his testimony is likely to last for several weeks, and the obvious strain and pressure that that must place upon an individual who is giving testimony in a case of this gravity, the application is that during the giving of his evidence we sit a four day week but not on Fridays in order to give him an opportunity of, frankly, recharging his batteries because of the length of time he will be giving evidence. And we consider in the circumstances, whereas we are anxious to conclude this trial and, indeed, his testimony as soon as possible, your Honours might consider that in these unique circumstances it may be a reasonable application that we are making. It's only for his evidence; not for the rest of the Defence case.

  • That's appreciated. That's a matter that we will decide and deliver our decision tomorrow morning. But before we adjourn, did you have any views on that, Mr Rapp?

  • Well, your Honours, we have this courtroom exclusively through December, as far as the ICC is concerned, and I don't want us to lose any of the time that we have available here. Others witnesses, some have been on the stand for more than a week, some for more than two, and they testified on Friday and it's only a part day and it's only a five and a half hour day, so we'd respectfully ask that we use the time that is available to us to proceed with this case.

  • Thank you. Mr Griffiths, was anything said there that you wanted to reply to?

  • Not at all.

  • Thank you. The Defence is due to call evidence tomorrow morning. This Court is adjourned until 9.30 tomorrow.

  • [Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 11.16 a.m. to be reconvened on Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 9.30 a.m.]