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

  • Good morning and I welcome you all back to this next session. I note the accused is not present in court. I will first take appearances and then I will ask about his absence. Good morning, Ms Hollis.

  • Good morning Madam President, your Honours. Brenda J Hollis, Nicholas Koumjian, Maja Dimitrova appear this morning for the Prosecution.

  • [Open session]

  • [The accused not present]

  • [Upon commencing at 9.30 a.m.]

  • Good morning your Honours, counsel opposite. Courtenay Griffiths, my learned friend Mr Terry Munyard, my learned friend Mr Morris Anyah and Silas Chekera.

  • Thank you, Mr Griffiths. I also note the presence of the Registrar's representative here in The Hague and I will now ask again I note the absence of the accused. Mr Griffiths, can you advise us?

  • Your Honour, on Friday last I received a telephone call from Mr Taylor expressing concerns about a heightened level of security occasioned, he was informed, by certain intelligence received by the prison authorities. As a consequence of that call Mr Townsend and Mr Chekera attended upon Mr Taylor in the afternoon of Friday last and, having spoken to him, from my conversation with Mr Chekera the situation is this:

    Intelligence has been received by the custody officials suggesting that there is a general security risk unrelated to Mr Taylor and there is no specific suggestion, as I understand it, that Mr Taylor himself poses any risk, but nonetheless, as a consequence of that intelligence, there is a raised level of security which relates in particular to his transportation to court.

    Now those measures include two particular procedures to which the defendant objects. Firstly, during the course of his transportation from the unit he is transported in such a way as to effectively cause him sensory deprivation. Secondly, during the course of that - and I have put that in those terms because I have been specifically requested by Mr Townsend on behalf of the security officials that I don't spell out precisely what measures are employed during the course of his transportation which is why I have been so elliptical in the way in which I have put that, your Honours. But the second particular procedure is that the defendant is chained around his waist and effectively led like a leashed animal and he finds that particularly objectionable and degrading. Now whereas the defendant accepts the need for security, he challenges the two particular procedures which have been demanded by the security services.

    Now your Honours will be aware that this heightened level of security caused us difficulties in the past during the course of these proceedings and on that occasion upon further investigation it was discovered that it was a totally false alarm. As a consequence Mr Taylor is concerned that the need for these heightened security measures be investigated properly and, whereas he accepts the need for some form of security, will not be willing to attend court if those two particular measures remain in place.

    Now part of the difficulty, particularly from our point of view as his legal representatives is the lack of transparency so far as these intelligence notifications are concerned and we are particularly concerned in light of the history of these matters when the need for heightened security measures in the past was found to be totally unfounded. We submit that these matters ought in the first place to be properly investigated and, secondly, we are concerned at the impact the imposition of such measures might have upon Mr Taylor's fair trial rights, in particular because the adoption of such measures in the first place taints his public image not only with the Court, but we submit also with the public, suggesting, as it does, that he personally poses some particular security risk. Secondly of course it affects his ability to prepare for and concentrate on the proceedings whilst in court because of the anxieties occasioned by the circumstances of his transportation and in particular it distracts not only the accused from following the proceedings properly, but also his advisors who have necessarily to deal with and confront these matters obviously to the detriment of other more important issues with which we have to deal.

    Whereas we appreciate that at one level these are administrative matters, we do submit that unresolved they do impinge upon the fair trial rights of the accused and obviously upon the smooth and efficient running of the Court. So far as that latter point is concerned, the point of my submission this morning is that we should not sit today until such matters are resolved.

    Now I appreciate the pressures upon this Court in terms of time, finance and otherwise, but equally I have to balance that against the rights of the accused to a fair trial and the Court will no doubt be aware of the degree to which the defendant has become involved directly and personally in the conduct of his defence and I would be loathe as lead counsel to embark on the cross-examination of an important witness in the absence of the accused, because whereas we are in possession of instructions so far as this witness is concerned necessarily matters may arise ex improviso during the course of the proceedings which require the direct attention of the accused and the taking of specific instructions from him and it seems to us in the circumstances it would be very difficult for us to proceed properly in the absence of Mr Taylor.

    So the application we make this morning is that the proceedings be adjourned until these particular difficulties are resolved. That is my application, your Honour, unless there are any specific matters upon which I can further assist you.

  • Before I invite a reply, Mr Griffiths, I note that you say that - point out "not sit today" and then you later say "the proceedings to be adjourned until the particular difficulties are resolved". That appears to be - the second point appears more open-ended than the first.

  • Your Honour, yes, and perhaps I should be clearer. It may be that during the course of today the matters can be further investigated and we can arrive at some modus vivendi which allows us to proceed tomorrow. If that is not possible then my clear application would be that we not sit until the matter be resolved.

    Now I do understand from speaking to Mr Townsend earlier that negotiations have been afoot to try and resolve these difficulties, the stumbling block being those two particular matters. Now it seems to me that it should not be beyond the wit of the staff of this Court to try and resolve those matters during the course of today, a working day, as opposed to over the weekend which might have posed other logistical difficulties. So I am optimistic that Mr Townsend can use today to attempt to resolve these matters.

  • Thank you for that clarification, Mr Griffiths. Ms Hollis, you have heard the application. Your reply, please.

  • The Prosecution opposes the application. We believe this is clearly a situation that falls under Rule 60(A)(i). This accused, as far as we know, has had the opportunity and right to come to court. He has refused to do so. An accused's refusal to come to court does not undermine his fair trial rights since it is his choice not to attend.

    In terms of taking the time to resolve the issues, it sounds from the application that the only resolution that would bring this accused back in court would be for the removal of the two conditions he apparently finds unacceptable. So in effect he is attempting to use these proceedings to impose his will over the security personnel who have made determinations about appropriate measures.

    We believe that that should not be allowed and we believe that we should go forward because it is a voluntary absence, he has refused to attend and therefore he has waived his right to be present and these proceedings should not be hostage to his whims about how he is transported or what security measures are determined appropriate in the circumstances.

  • Thank you, Ms Hollis. Before I confer with my learned colleagues, Mr Townsend, I note you have heard both the application and the reply. Are there any matters that you can help assist the Court with?

  • May it please the Trial Chamber, yes, your Honour, if I might briefly just give you some additional information upon which you might base any decision on how to proceed today. The ICC authorities at the detention centre informed Mr Taylor, it is my information, on 13 August 2008, that's last Wednesday, that the security would go from medium level to high level and that this change in security level was not applicable only to Mr Taylor, but also to one ICC detainee.

    Mr Taylor voiced objections, as Mr Griffiths admitted, to two conditions and Mr Taylor expressed those same objections to me on Friday, 15 August 2008. Mr Taylor appeared in a good condition, he has been in custody over the recess and this morning at 8.25 we received from Mr Tjonk an absence from court form in which Mr Taylor was advised that proceedings would continue today and that his absence may be an implied waiver to his right to be present at trial and Mr Taylor declined to fill out that waiver form, having given instructions to counsel.

    We have indeed addressed the Dutch transport authorities, the DV&O, about these two objections and they have not been able to accommodate us based on their security protocol. It's not that Mr Taylor is being - having security measures escalated being targeted at him, but rather it's just a changed security scene on the ground and those are all the - that's all the information I have at this point, your Honour.

  • Thank you. Mr Townsend, may I take it that you have given copies of this document signed by Mr Tjonk to counsel for the Defence and Prosecution?

  • Yes, your Honour, and all the parties.

  • Thank you. Please allow me to confer.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

    The Chamber will withdraw to discuss this application and we will reconvene as soon as we have reached a decision. You will be notified through the Legal Officer. Please adjourn court temporarily.

  • [Break taken at 9.45 a.m.]

  • [Upon resuming at 10.20 a.m.]

  • We have considered the submissions of the parties and of the Registrar's representative. We note that the trial has been proceeding smoothly hitherto and one reason is that Mr Taylor has conducted himself very reasonably.

    There has not been any evidence put before us to show that the upgrading of Mr Taylor's security regime has been as a result of his behaviour.

    We agree with the Defence that it is at a disadvantage in having to cross-examine this particular witness without the benefit of instructions from the accused and that this is a feature that has some bearing on his fair trial rights.

    It would appear that the matter is capable of resolution and, in our view, the Registrar should be directly involved.

    Accordingly we adjourn the hearing for one day and direct the Registrar to investigate with a view to urgently resolving this issue and to report to the Trial Chamber tomorrow at 9.30 a.m.

    Ms Hollis, I note the witness is absent from the witness's stand and I would therefore be grateful if someone would explain this to him. I appreciate it will not be you, but perhaps I should have directed that to the Registrar more properly than to you. Mr Registrar, you have heard what I said.

    In the circumstances we will adjourn until 9.30 tomorrow. Please adjourn court.

  • [Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 10.24 a.m. to be reconvened on Tuesday, 19 August 2008 at 9.30 a.m.]