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

  • [Open session]

  • [The accused not present]

  • [Upon commencing at 9.04 a.m.]

  • Good morning. We will take appearances. Please.

  • Good morning, your Honours. For the Prosecution this morning, Maja Dimitrova, Nicholas Koumjian and Joseph F Kamara

  • Good morning, Madam President, your Honours and counsel opposite. For the Defence, myself Silas Chekera, Logan Hambrick and Kathryn Hovington.

  • I note that the accused is not present.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Yes, Mr Taylor is not present but the Chamber was informed that he would voluntarily not be present this morning until about 11; the reasons are known to the Chamber and we would be prepared to proceed pursuant to Rule 16(B), I think, if his absence - Rule 16, in his absence.

    Mr Chekera, I note that Mr Griffiths is not in court.

  • Yes, Madam President, I was going to address the Court on that issue. Madam President, once again I regret to inform the Court that Mr Griffiths is indisposed on account of ill health and will not be able to attend court today. This is an issue that has arisen before and your Honours made the suggestion that in the event that this issue arises again we should have a contingent plan.

    We do have a contingent plan in that we have another witness who came in about last week and who Mr Anyah has been preparing for court.

    As of this morning unfortunately I could not get hold of Mr Anyah on the phone to ascertain the position as to when he would be able to have that witness ready for court. We have been trying to get in touch with him since I got the message from Mr Griffiths that he would not be able to attend court, but unfortunately I could not do so.

    I can, however, confirm that the witness is available; whether Mr Anyah is prepared or ready to proceed with that witness, I cannot say until I get in touch with him.

    So I would seek an adjournment. I would hesitate to say until the midmorning break. I am tempted to say an adjournment until tomorrow morning to give Mr Anyah time, if he has to stand in for Mr Griffiths, to finalise if he hasn't finished with the witness, or to proceed if he's ready to proceed.

  • First of all, may I inquire when Mr Griffiths is likely to be back in court?

  • Madam President, I could not possibly assist in that regard, him being indisposed. It is, as it were, in the hands of God. I am sure that he might be able to attend tomorrow, but that's just my hope and, beyond that, I am unable to assist.

  • Well, I am very sorry to hear that Mr Griffiths is indisposed yet again but let me consult my colleagues to see the way forward.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Mr Chekera, we are minded to ask the Defence to return - the parties to return at 11 and possibly to proceed with the interposed witness. We are concerned that the problem of these constant adjournments is really taking its toll on the speed at which the trial is proceeding, and really, in the interests of expedition, we really should interpose another witness. And so we are going to adjourn until 11.30, which is the midmorning break, and I am going to ask you to get in touch with Mr Anyah and with the witness and make sure that that witness is present at 11.30 for us to proceed.

  • Yes, Madam President. I will attempt to do so. In the meantime, I was going to ask whether it would be necessary for us to retain the current witness or whether he should be sent back?

  • Let me hear from Mr Koumjian.

  • Your Honour, we would like to actually think about it and consult with Ms Hollis and come back. We are concerned with the interruptions of this witness, given his special situation and the arrangements that are made for him to be up here.

    Obviously, if it is a matter of a day that is one thing, but we don't know if Mr Griffiths is going to be indisposed for a longer period of time. If that is the case, we do suggest that another counsel complete the direct examination.

    So what I really am saying is at 11.30, I would prefer to consult with Ms Hollis and state our position at that time.

  • Mr Koumjian, there are two things here. One is whether the Prosecution is able to proceed with an interposed witness - your readiness that is, to proceed with the interposed witness. The other, of course, is the position of Mr Sesay.

    My own view is the Defence - it is really in the hands of Defence who - which of counsel examines which witness; as far as the Court is concerned, as long as this trial keeps going, that is our interest.

    Now, obviously, Mr Sesay's testimony has been interrupted on more than one occasion. This is unfortunate. It is the fault of nobody. If the Defence is ready to proceed at 11.30 with another witness, that is what we are going to do, that is what we plan to do, and basically that is the order of the Court right now.

  • Madam President, just to advise the parties. The next witness would be DCT-008.

  • Mr Sesay, unfortunately you have heard what has happened, a senior counsel is indisposed and the Court does not know as yet when he is likely to be back in court to continue with your examination, but for today I think we will let you return and you will be informed as to when you can return to complete your testimony.

    In the meantime, as usual, I caution you not to discuss your evidence with anyone. Thank you.

  • [Break taken at 9.15 a.m.]

  • [Upon resuming at 11.37 a.m.]

  • Good morning.

    Mr Chekera. Yes. I was going to ask Mr Chekera is the Defence ready to proceed?

  • Madam President, I hesitate to say that we are not ready to proceed, and I will address the Court on that after my learned friend across addresses the Court.

  • Why don't you address me now? I'm addressing you.

  • Yes, Madam President. After we adjourned, I tried to get in touch with Mr Anyah who I've advised the Court has got carriage of the next witness. I only managed to get in touch with Mr Anyah 15 minutes before we came back to court. I spoke with Mr Anyah, and he indicated to me that he has been preparing the witness but unfortunately is not yet ready to proceed with the witness's evidence. He is scheduled to meet the witness - or was scheduled to meet this witness to continue with his preparation this afternoon. He indicated that he's unlikely to conclude the preparations of the witness any time soon. In other words, he will not be able to conclude the preparation this afternoon. He might not even be able to do so tomorrow.

    So, in short, the witness that we thought would be ready, that is DCT-008, is not ready to continue - or, rather, to start with his evidence.

    I have also tried in the meantime to get in touch with Mr Griffiths to see if he is able to continue tomorrow. Unfortunately, I was not able to get in touch with him to get that assurance from him.

    I got in touch with client, who has waived his right to be present for this session, and I hope to get instructions from him on how best to proceed in the circumstances.

    I should say, Madam President, that I find myself in a very difficult position, and, indeed, the Defence team finds itself in a difficult position. We are trying our best and the situation we are in is not of our making and we would like to cooperate with the Court, in view of the Court's orders and suggestions, but circumstances beyond our control put us in the situation where we are in. Unfortunately, the absence of Mr Griffiths, who is lead counsel, makes it very difficult for me to assist the Court as much as I would have wanted to. I would have been able - if I had been able to consult with him, I could have come before the Court with possibly other contingent plans, including the possibility of someone taking over, which we had not contemplated, in view of the instructions I'd gotten from client the last time, that he was hesitant to let someone else continue with the witness. But in the circumstances that we find ourselves in, it is an option that we might have to revisit, because it looks like there's no other option, should Mr Griffiths continue to be absent from Court.

  • Incidentally, why is Mr Taylor not in Court? The notification the Chamber received was that he would be in Court at 11, from 11 onwards, so why is he not in Court?

  • When I spoke with him, he indicated that he would not be coming in for this session. He wasn't too sure that we were going to proceed, and on that basis he exercised his right to absent himself from Court.

  • Anyway, before I say anything further, I will hear from the Prosecution.

  • Thank you, Madam President. And I initially rose simply to note a change of appearance. Brenda J Hollis, Mohamed A Bangura are present for the Prosecution. Joseph Kamara and Nicholas Koumjian are absent.

    Madam President, a few things. On 15 July, at the very latest, the Defence were aware of the problems they may encounter because of the health problems that Mr Griffiths was encountering, and it was raised in court that day that Mr Griffiths was not available because of health problems.

    On 15 July - and I'm referring first to page 44524 - your Honours, of course, indicated that it was unfortunate that Mr Griffiths was ill, and I might say no one is saying that his illness is anyone's fault. However, your Honours went on to say that there had to be a plan B in place in the event Mr Griffiths is not ready to proceed in the foreseeable future. And your Honours gave two options on 15 July to the Defence.

    The first option, at page 44524, was asking the Defence if they had a witness to interpose in the interim. At that point in time, Defence indicated they did not have such a witness. At page 44525, your Honours also wanted to emphasise that you were anxious to have the trial move forward and encouraged the Defence to look into the possibility of another Defence counsel taking over the testimony of Issa Sesay in the event or the unlikely event Mr Griffiths is indisposed for some extended period.

    Madam President, your Honours, Issa Sesay has been here in the Hague for his testimony from the second or third week of June. His testimony began on 5 July. Since that time, eight court days of that possible testimony have been lost due to the illness of Mr Griffiths, and that is including today. We suggest that it is overtime for the Defence to have prepared for another witness - for another counsel to step in and conclude the testimony, the direct testimony, of this witness, who to date has been testifying for 75 hours of what was to be 44 hours of direct examination.

    The other alternative that your Honours mentioned to the Defence on 15 July was to have another witness ready to interpose. On 16 July, the Defence indicated to us that should they need to interpose a witness, that witness would be 008. So since 16 July the Defence has been aware that should they need to interpose a witness, it would be 008. And yet today, on 3 August, we are told that 008 is not ready to testify.

    The Prosecution suggest that your Honours were correct to emphasise that we need to move forward and that the Defence has not acted as it should to be prepared to move forward, given the state of Mr Griffiths' health, either by preparing someone to take over this lengthy testimony of Issa Sesay or to have another witness here and prepared and ready to go. And we would suggest that your Honours order that another counsel take over the examination of Mr Sesay forthwith or, in the alternative, that they interpose witness 008 starting tomorrow.

    We have concerns about that alternative, because it is our understanding that witness 008's estimated length of direct examination will be 14 hours. So what would the plan be? Would it be that 008 would be interposed and concluded before we went back to Issa Sesay, in addition to the three witnesses the Prosecution will call for very, very short direct examination? Or would 008's testimony begin and then, as soon as Mr Griffiths' health permits, Issa Sesay would be recalled for that evidence to continue? So we think that perhaps we are getting into some logistical and efficiency problems, in terms of interposing additional witnesses. But we do believe that we should be back in court tomorrow, either with Mr Sesay with another counsel asking the questions, or with 008.

    Thank you, Madam President.

  • Very well. Mr Chekera, do you wish to make additional submissions in that regard before the Chamber deliberates?

  • Yes, Madam President, just to assist the Court with a few details.

    Madam President, you will recall that when this issue first arose, I think it was on 15 July, we indicated that we would come up with a contingent plan, and I indicated to the Court that we were contemplating bringing in another witness. Indeed, we attempted to do so, and that very same week we requested WVS to bring in DCT-008. For administrative purposes that I cannot go into because I'm not privy to, WVS were not able to until the witness was brought in on 28 July. Since then, Mr Anyah has been preparing that witness.

    Mr Anyah has got carriage of DCT-008, and he has been preparing that witness pretty much for the entire working week. And this week, save on Monday, where he was present in court, Mr Anyah has also been preparing another witness who the Prosecution is going to interpose, pursuant to the order to reopen their case. So as far as the Defence is concerned, we have been, as it were, spread thin, and we could not have expedited the preparation of DCT-008 any further than we have.

    We were also not anticipating that Mr Griffiths would be indisposed, as he is today, and be able to proceed today. Be that as it may, we have been trying our best to make sure that DCT-008 is ready for court as soon as possible.

    Concerning the second issue that my learned friends raise is concerning the current witness. Initially, it was our desire that we should get rid of the witness as soon as possible. He has, as it were, overstayed here - here in the Netherlands. The conditions of his detention here are - he's not very familiar with, and that has been taking a toll on him as well, and we are very anxious that we conclude his evidence and he goes back to a familiar environment as soon as possible.

    Now that we find ourselves in the situation where we are in, I would possibly - I would only ask the Court for time to consult and see what contingent plan - another contingent plan possibly, to make sure that we proceed without any further delays. And if I were to suggest, as I am going to suggest, to my team, I would suggest that we consider someone else taking over the evidence-in-chief - leading the evidence-in-chief of the current witness and get him out of the way before we - rather than interpose. As my learned friend says, if we interpose, there are a lot of other issues involved. Do we interpose for a day and go back to the original witness, should Mr Griffiths be back? Or do we hold his entire evidence until the evidence-in-chief of the interposed witness is concluded? Those are some of the issues we have to look at. And that option would be untidy, in my view and in my submission, and I am tempted but hesitate to commit to the option that we would look into another counsel taking over and concluding the evidence of Mr Sesay before we bring in the next witness.

  • Thank you, Mr Chekera. We will - I will consult.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • First of all, let me say it is unfortunate that Mr Griffiths has been taken ill and we do acknowledge it's not his fault. However, there are some grim facts that we have to face on the ground, one of which is that in the evidence of the current witness, Issa Sesay, nine days, including today, have been taken out on account of Mr Griffiths's illness. Now, the Chamber is familiar with Mr Griffiths's health in as far as he's been able to explain it to us, and I think it would not be unreasonable of us to presume that the Defence ought to provide for a contingency of this problem continuing.

    We've also taken into account that Mr Sesay's testimony has been interrupted, through no fault of his own, by a number of events, one of which of course is Mr Griffiths's illness. Another unforeseen or foreseen circumstance interrupting his testimony is the three Prosecution witnesses that have been interposed, these are interposed in the midst of Mr Sesay's testimony.

    So be that as it may, we are of the view that the trial must continue. With all these matters intervening, we feel that the trial must continue. We agree with the Prosecution. I think they've made a good suggestion of the way forward. Our preference would have been of course to conclude Mr Sesay's testimony, as indeed both parties have indicated. That would then entail a different lawyer coming in tomorrow in the event that Mr Griffiths is not ready to proceed - a different lawyer coming in tomorrow to continue with the testimony in chief of Mr Sesay. Now, that is the Chamber's preference.

    However, we also know that there are many unforeseen contingencies, and that in case that is not possible we are directing that the Defence should proceed with their next witness tomorrow. That is, 008. We've heard the explanations you've given to the Chamber regarding the preparedness, or lack thereof of your lawyer, but for us this is not a valid reason to delay the trial.

    And so I'm going to direct, firstly, our preference is that Mr Sesay's testimony continues tomorrow, either through Mr Griffiths, if he's well enough to continue, or through another counsel. We are of the view that there are many capable counsel on the Defence team that could continue with the testimony of Mr Sesay tomorrow. That is our first preference and my first direction.

    In the event that that is not possible, I direct that the next witness, 008, be called tomorrow at 9 o'clock for this trial to continue. Those are my directives for today.

    So Court is adjourned to tomorrow at 9 o'clock.

  • [Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 12.01 p.m. to be reconvened on Wednesday, 4 August 2010 at 9.00 a.m.]