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

  • [Open session]

  • [The accused present]

  • [Upon commencing at 9.03 a.m.]

  • Good morning. We'll take appearances, please.

  • Good morning, Madam President, your Honours, counsel opposite. This morning, for the Prosecution, Maja Dimitrova, Nick Koumjian, and myself, Joseph F Kamara.

  • Good morning, Madam President, your Honours, counsel opposite. For the Defence, myself, Silas Chekera, and Mr Michael Herz.

  • Mr Chekera, are you going to proceed with the examination of the witness?

  • Yes, Madam President. But before that, I was going to make an application.

    Madam President, Mr Griffiths is once again indisposed on account of ill health, and he called me this morning at about 7.40 to tell me that he would not be able to come to Court and asked me whether I would be in a position to stand in for him. I indicated that given that this issue has arisen so many times before, that I would be constrained to ask the Court for an adjournment and would try my best to stand in for him; however, that I was not prepared to stand in immediately, your Honours. Since this issue arose the last time, you will recall you indicated in no uncertain terms that we should be able to proceed, and pursuant to that order, I was prepared to proceed for the last two days, from the time that Mr Griffiths was indisposed last.

    However, when Mr Griffiths came become to Court, because he was indisposed for a while, the notes that I had prepared were the very notes that I had to hand over to him for him to proceed with the trial. So the transcripts that he was proceeding on were the very same transcripts that I was prepared to proceed with. Consequently, I do not have transcripts immediately ready for me to be able to proceed. I would, if I were given a bit of time, which I'm going to ask for, with your indulgence, I would be able to, as it were, limp along, if I were just given about an hour to get my head around some of the transcripts that we have, that we intend to put across to the witness.

    Madam President, it is my submission that it is in the interests of all the parties concerned, the Court especially and the accused person and myself, if I were given that time. That way I could proceed in a more focused and expedient fashion.

    So, in light of the those submissions, Madam President, I would ask for an hour to just get my head around the transcripts and come back to court and be able to proceed.

  • Very well. I'm going to ask the Prosecution to respond before I give me ruling on this. You don't have to respond, of course, if you don't want to.

  • Your Honour, I would just say that I don't find the request for an hour unreasonable. But I would say this: I think the last time we asked Mr Griffiths for an estimate for this witness, it was four or five days, and I think that was last Thursday. It appears the Defence - I'm not sure, but it appears that they're not close to finishing with this witness. And frankly, we don't care how long Mr Sesay testifies, but we are concerned with the length of the trial and the Defence commitment to meet their representations to the Court about when they would finish their case. And I just bring that the Court's attention.

  • Madam President, with your leave, I could just assist the Court with regards to the submission by my learned friend relating to anticipated time for us to wind up.

    Madam President, incidentally, only yesterday, we had discussion with Mr Griffiths as to when we were likely to conclude with the transcripts, given that we still have quite a substantial number of transcripts to go through. We agreed that --

  • Conclude with what?

  • Conclude with the Defence case or conclude with the witness?

  • With the evidence-in-chief, sorry, Madam President, of the current witness. And we agreed and - we agreed that we were going over the weekend to look at all the evidence that we intend to put to Mr Sesay and try to synchronise it so that we do not repeat every aspect of the evidence by another witness for the Prosecution that's already been put to Mr Sesay. And we were hoping that if we succeeded in doing that, Mr Griffiths might be able to wind up with the evidence-in-chief possibly by Wednesday next week. That is what we were working on, and that as well threw my preparations completely off balance, in the event that Mr Griffiths was not able to attend Court and I was going to cover-up for him. That also put me off balance in a way, in that we were going to change the strategy completely and come up with a new strategy that is more time-effective. So I just raise the issue to respond to the inquiry by my learned friend.

  • First of all, do I take it, Mr Chekera, that you are the new counsel that Mr Griffiths has assigned to continue with Mr Sesay, in view of his illness?

  • I was just going to stand in for him on a case-by-case basis. I wasn't going to substitute him, Madam President.

  • Because if you are going to stand in for him on a case-by-case basis, it is only logical, in my view, that you would prepare thoroughly to conclude Mr Sesay's evidence, alongside Mr Griffiths. If Mr Griffiths is here, well and good, but in the event that he's not here, well, you are ready to proceed without a need for adjournment.

  • Madam President, if we were to commit to that suggestion, which I could hear our client, Mr Taylor, is in agreement with, if we were to commit to that suggestion, I would make an application that I'm very hesitant to make, but that might actually assist the proceedings further in the long-term.

    My submission would be to seek an adjournment until after the evidence of the interposed Prosecution witnesses, by which time I would commit that either myself or Mr Griffiths would be available to continue with Mr Sesay's evidence and conclude it within a reasonable time of possibly not more than three sitting days, because we already have a plan to streamline the evidence the way it has been going.

  • Could I just briefly be heard on that application?

  • Your Honours, we would oppose it. Frankly, the Defence has given us estimates at least three times, Mr Griffiths, that have not been met regarding the length of time to complete the witness. We think we should take advantage of the time today to proceed with the examination. An hour's adjournment, I think, is reasonable.

  • Let me consult.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Mr Chekera, I just have one inquiry. We've indicated to you before that whenever Mr Griffiths becomes ill, he should delegate somebody to carry on the case in his absence. Now, it looks to me as though no system whatsoever has been put in place, and it does seem, from what you're saying, that whenever Mr Griffiths is not well, the system is that you come to Court and ask the Court to prepare your questions - time to prepare your questions on the Court's time rather than your own. If so, that's not a very good system and it doesn't work.

  • Would you allow me to respond, Madam President, or it is an observation?

  • No, it is an observation by the judge but of course you should respond.

  • Yes, Madam President. I just sought leave to respond because it might be impertinent for me to respond to.

  • Thank you. I do agree with your Honour that it would be an untidy contingent plan for us to not have someone prepared until Mr Griffiths calls each morning to say that he's indisposed. In this particular case, your Honours, as I have indicated, and I say this in all honesty, I was prepared to deal with any eventuality in the event that Mr Griffiths was not available and, to the extent that I could within the time available, I prepared the very same information and material that Mr Griffiths has been using for the last two days. That put our contingent plan off balance completely. Over the weekend --

  • But that's my point. If Mr Griffiths used your material that you'd prepared for the last two days, why weren't you working on some more material for the following days instead of just standing still, doing nothing and then now Mr Griffiths is ill again and here you are asking the Court to give you the time on the Court's time to prepare questions that you could have done in advance.

  • Your Honour, that is - I take full - I agree with the observation completely, only that that is the very same material, your Honours, that I am going just to finalise and be able to proceed within an hour or so.

  • [Microphone not activated]

  • Very well. Give us time to consider this. I'll rule shortly.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Right, two things that we've deliberated upon that are of concern to us. The first one is the issue raised by the Prosecution, namely, the length - the total length of this trial and when the end is likely to be in sight. This is a matter that is constantly of concern to the judges, given the length already of this trial.

    Now, I'm not apportioning blame on anybody, seeing that only yesterday the Prosecution reopened their case. This is not the point at all. But the point is we must be organised and we must expedite this trial. And so it is our plan that as soon as the three additional Prosecution witnesses have concluded their testimonies, we intend to hold a scheduling conference or status conference for the parties to let us know how much longer this case will be and when the Defence is likely to close their case. I'm giving you this notice in good time and we will hold the status conference soon after the Prosecution have called their last witness and their last witness has concluded that testimony. I think this is a good way to proceed and for everyone to know how much longer we will be.

    Now, the second matter is the one at hand, which is again of Mr Griffiths's illness. This is a matter that I will not revisit, the Chamber has very clearly said so before that we will not adjourn any more on account of Mr Griffiths's illness on the grounds that you have had adequate warning and directives from the Trial Chamber to be prepared to proceed.

    Now, I do appreciate that Mr Griffiths doesn't plan to fall sick and that sometimes he tells you early in the morning, like today. But, Justice Lussick pointed out, you should have foreseen this, that this is a likelihood. Mr Griffiths is not in very good health; probably the team knows it better than the Bench does. And therefore, for us, the most important thing is to keep this trial moving and, frankly, we are very reluctant, Mr Chekera, to grant you this adjournment. In fact, if it were up to Judge Lussick he wouldn't even grant you half an hour.

    However, the majority of us are going to grant you the hour that you've asked for. Simply because, one, the Prosecution thinks it's a reasonable request, and, two, because the majority think that you are - the accused is entitled to the guarantee for adequate time to prepare. However, as a compromise we also think that we need to sit for an extra half hour today. That is, you know on Fridays we sit till 1 o'clock and today we are minded to sit to 1.30 in order to catch up on hearing time.

    So we're going to adjourn. It is now 20 past nine. We are going to resume at 20 past 10 for you to take over the examination-in-chief of Mr Sesay. And please bear in mind everything that I have said.

  • I am indebted, Madam President.

  • Thank you. Court is adjourned accordingly.

  • [Break taken at 9.23 a.m.]

  • [Upon resuming at 10.23 a.m.]

  • Mr Chekera, I want to inquire. We are minded to take a shorter break, in view of the long adjournment we have just had - a shorter break of 15 instead of 30 minutes. Would that pose problems for Mr Taylor in any way?

  • If you would allow me just to confer quickly. Madam President, if it were his way, Mr Taylor would rather have the normal break.

  • That is the time that he catches up with his breakfast and takes a short rest.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Listen, I'm dealing with so many adjustments here on everybody's behalf, so I am going to be very fair in the spirit of give and take, and this is the schedule for the morning: We are going to sit until 11.45 now. We will take a 15 minute break until 12, resume at 12 and sit until 1.30. That should really take care of everybody's concerns.

    So please continue, Mr Chekera, with your witness.

  • Thank you, Madam President. Before I continue, I want again just to apologise for the hiccup this morning and to express our gratitude to your Honours for giving us the indulgence for preparation.

  • There is a change of appearance for the Prosecution; Mr Kamara has left us.