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

Thank you, Your Honours.

Mr President, Justice Lussick, Justice Sebutinde, Justice Doherty, members of the Registry here, the Prosecutors past and present, members of the Defence past and present, the visiting gallery, and may I say the world's audience, the last six years have been challenging years for all of us. Judges, Prosecutors, Defence lawyers, victims, and their families, me and my family, and the peoples of Sierra Leone and Liberia. And now this process is at its end and I am grateful that this Court has extended me the opportunity to be heard at this time.

The observations which I make today are deeply felt and are not limited exclusively to the legal issues of this case. I am aware of my rights, and without prejudice to any of those rights, I hereby make the following observations.

It seems to me, as an economist and a layperson not a lawyer, that Your Honours were dealt a difficult hand, sitting at the helm of a Court whose rules allow a low threshold requirement for the presentation of evidence. The presumption is that everything is admitted into evidence regardless in about 98 per cent of the time.

Your Honours were also handicapped by not having the benefit of the full contextual picture of why and how I ended up before this court. That contextual matrix is uniquely political and not legal in nature, and having ensnared Charles Taylor at this time, only time will tell how many other African heads of state stand to be destroyed in its continued wake.

These handicaps were not the fault of Your Honours, to be sure, in the sense that you could not be asked to know of so much that was never meant to ever see the light of day. Despite obstacles to ascertaining the truth, what was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt, as I understood the summary of the judgement, was that Your Honours critically determined, in fact, that I could not be held responsible for the substantial charges of joint criminal enterprise as a pure responsibility, as had been pleaded by the Prosecution.

Now, following the civil war in Liberia, I stood before the Liberian people and apologised and expressed the deep regrets and contrition for the loss of lives and limbs and the overall effects of the civil war. I stated that no words, no matter how polished and sincere, could heal the scars and pains all suffered.

I was not alone as a leader of a faction that fought during the civil war when I took it upon myself to express those sentiments while aspiring for the presidency, but I did. There are many like me who owed an expression of sympathy and regret for what happened to the Liberian people, indeed, none other than the current president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was identified in the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission report as somebody from whom such expression of regret and sympathy for what happened in Liberia should have been forthcoming, since she was one of the three principal leaders of the NPFL along with me.

Additionally, I said that wars were terrible. That there was no good war. That there are no just wars, whether carried out by underdeveloped countries whose peoples are still deeply entrenched in tribal, ethnic, and cultural conflicts, or by the worlds only military superpower.

President Bush in 2000 tried to play the just card war -- excuse me, the just war card. A card that goes pack to the 1st Century BCE when Rome's Marcus Tullius Cicero theorised on the justified use of armed forces, jus ad bellum, and he lost that argument. Scholars still debate the concept today with no clear agreement.

But as wars are no good, I condemn all atrocities across the world, whether by bombs that are dropped by powerful nations from aeroplanes or cruise missiles fired from ships, submarines, and aircraft and/or drones that kill women and children by blowing off legs, arms, and leaving mangled bodies scattered all over the place, only to be justified as collateral damage. That, too, is wrong. These are crimes also.

Now, following the verdict of 26 April, the Prosecutor in the press release said the following:

"Today's historic judgement reinforces the new reality that heads of state will be held to account for war crimes and other international crimes. This judgement affirms that with leadership comes not just power and authority, but also responsibility and accountability. No person, no matter how powerful, is above the law."

Now, I could not agree more. President George W. Bush not too long ago ordered torture and admitted to doing so. Torture is a crime against humanity. The United States has refused to prosecute him. Is he above the law? Where is the fairness?

Terrible things happened in Sierra Leone, and there can be no justification for the terrible crimes. During the war in Liberia, I punished people responsible for crimes against others. Factual evidence presented before this court proved that several NPFL soldiers were put on trial for violent crimes. Some were executed for rape, murder, and other serious crimes. Witnesses from both sides testified to that fact.

Let me be very, very clear about one thing: I do not condone impunity in any shape or form. Let me say in the strongest term, that I, DahKpannah Dr. Charles Ghankay Taylor, did not, could not have ever, and would never have knowingly and with responsibility and/or authority to prevent, stop, or punish someone from carrying out acts of atrocities fail to do so.

Now, I say all of this not just in the context of Sierra Leone and the charges against me, but also in the wider context of the impunity, whether in Africa or the rest of our global community. There has to be a mechanism which is developed, embraced, and perfected by the global community to deal with impunity in a way that is consistent with the history, custom, practice, and cultures of the people inconsonant with their spirit as an independent people.

The Rome Statute is a Western document that does not take into account citing customs, cultures, and other sensitivities unique to certain regions of the world. The practice of one size fits all within the legal context is unfair and unjust.

I say with respect that though I disagree with your findings of guilt, it is easy for me to see how the absence of the contextual framework in which this case was put together by the Prosecution seemingly contributed to your findings. Sadly, I am saddled with those findings today as you consider what sentence to impose.

A starting point for the contextual framework to which I'm referring is the issue of money, the purchasing of witnesses' evidence with money. Money played a corrupting, influential, significant, and dominant role in this trial. Money, in this case, cumulatively prejudiced my rights and interests in an irreparable way.

The Prosecution received millions of dollars from the United States government outside of the official funding process of the court administration. The Prosecution has never fully accounted for how those monies were spent, who received how much, or for what purpose or purposes. Witnesses were paid, coerced, and in many cases threatened with prosecution if they did not co-operate only to extract statements and not confessions. Families were rewarded with thousands of dollars to cover costs of children's school fees, transportation, food, clothing, medical bills, and given cash allowances for protected and non-protected witnesses in a country where income is less than a dollar a day.

The question then comes to focus: What was the Prosecution buying?

Abu Keita testified openly and never felt it necessary to demand any type of protective measures from this Court, and yet, within a few weeks of having testified, it became public knowledge that he successfully coerced the Prosecution and the Witness and Victim Section, WVS, to relocate him overseas. The details are sketchy because the Prosecution and WVS have refused to provide any details regarding the extortion by Abu Keita. Evidence of his own threats are shown in Exhibit D468.

A more important point for the contextual framework to which I am referring is the role politics played. With regime change -- excuse me, Your Honours. When regime change in Liberia became a policy of the United States government, President George W. Bush, in May of 2001, signed a second of two executive orders, number 13213, Defence Exhibit D310, in which it was stated, and I quote:

"The government of Liberia's complicity in the RUF's illicit trade in diamonds and its other forms of support for the RUF are direct challenges to the United States foreign policy objectives in the region as well as the rule-based international order that is critical to the peace and prosperity of the United States. Therefore, I find these actions by the government of Liberia contribute to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States described in executive order 13194," with respect to which the president declared a national emergency.

This executive order did not say "the alleged complicity." It concluded "the complicity." The conspiracy was born. All systems put into motion. And here I stand today. I never stood a chance.

This is the broader contextual matrix that regrettably did not and still has not seen the light of day in these proceedings despite the gallant efforts by the Defence to unearth and reveal the contextual framework behind the charges against me.

Now, with the two executive orders, the dogs were let out, so to speak. What followed was a dispatch of the attack pack led by Lieutenant-Colonel David Crane, defence intelligence 30 years, prosecutor. He, Crane, unlawfully unsealed the Court's sealed indictment to his handlers, senior US government officials at the US embassy in Freetown, and was never held to account.

The rest of the operational team are Colonel Brenda Hollis, Defence intelligence, CIA, US Air Force, senior trial counsel, and now Prosecutor. James C. Johnson, US Army, expert 20 years on conventional and special operations, chief of prosecutions for the SCSL. Allen White, 30 years Defence intelligence, recalled from retirement to head up investigations at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Stephen J. Rapp came on board as Chief Prosecutor for a short time with experience from Capitol Hill where he served with a US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee sometime before. It came as a surprise to me that as a reward of sorts for Stephen Rapp's diligence in execution of US foreign policy objectives through these ad hoc tribunals, he was appointed US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues.

In support of the contextual framework of politics, on February 8, 2006, Lieutenant-Colonel David Crane, Prosecutor, appeared before a US Congress subcommittee on Africa, Defence Exhibit D04, and spelled out in clear terms the decision taken in support of regime change in Liberia and what needed to happen to solidify that process. There was no mention, if any, in his testimony about Sierra Leone. And here is what he said:

"I posit that five years from now, when the international community is challenged by other crises, Taylor, in Calabar, under the protection of Nigeria, will make his move. We will wake up one morning and watch on CNN as Taylor rides triumphantly down the main street in Monrovia to the executive mansion, daring all of us to come and get him. Unless he is handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, this scenario is not out of the realm of possibility ..."

He then asked:

"How to do we assure Liberia's future?"

And he answers that. Ultimately he says:

"What we do about Taylor in the next several weeks will determine the fate of Liberia and the new administration of its president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf."

Crane then sets out several plans, two of which I will state here. He said:

"First, hand Charles Taylor over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone for a fair trial."

His kind of trial.

"This takes him out of the local and regional dynamics that is West Africa ..."

"Second, tie any financial and political support to good governance in Liberia."

Time does not permit, but the exhibits are present.

Not even the Nigerian nation was spared from threats and intimidation as explained by Femi Fani-Kayode, press secretary to President Obasanjo, the Nigerian head of state, who was with him in Washington when President George W. Bush promised, and I quote, "to bring Nigeria to its knees" if Taylor was not turned over to the Special Court.

And what happened? Obasanjo buckled and capitulated. Now, this demonstrates the significant pressure that was brought to bear on President Obasanjo irrespective of his personal and leadership obligations to the West African sub-region. And therein lies the dilemma for current African heads of state and government, how to enter into binding commitments and obligations with their African peers and remain steadfast, resolute, and unyielding in their fidelity to those agreements in the face of such unrelenting and punishing pressure from powerful Western leaders.

Evidence, as we know, can be deceiving. The world watched General Colin Powell, a man of honour and respect, mislead the United Nations Security Council and the world about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and I believe it was unintentional. There were drawings of mobile laboratories for the production of gases and other nerve agents for use in weapons of mass destruction. None of this was true.

Intelligence experts, we were told later, had relied on informers who deliberately lied or misinformed experts and analysts. Not even the world's only superpower knew what was actually obtaining on the ground in Iraq.

What happened afterward over a period of ten years under the iron fists of the United States and Great Britain caused the murder, the rape, maiming, torture, and mutilation of around 1.5 million Iraqis, not to mention the 1 million Iraqi babies that lost their lives as a result of crippling sanctions.

Now, this tragedy, I believe, are consequences not anticipated of a policy that set out - and may I say rightly so - to prevent the development and use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians. But what happened? It ended up a total disaster costing around a trillion dollars and a massive loss of lives and limbs on all sides, unfortunately.

What I did to help bring peace to Sierra Leone was done with honour. Foremost on my mind at all times was to help solve the problem because I was convinced that unless peace came to Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward. I pushed the peace process hard and used known mediating methods in trying to draw the parties close and gain their confidence and trust. This is a strategy used universally in mediation efforts. Indeed, my approach to peace in Sierra Leone was neither unique nor new.

All major activities leading to peace in Sierra Leone, except for the final signing of the Lome Peace Agreement, were done in Monrovia. Following that historic signing we brought Foday Sankoh and Johnny Paul Koroma to Monrovia. When Bockarie threatened the disarmament process, we extracted Sam Bockarie to give the disarmament process a chance to take hold. We invited Issa Sesay to meet my colleagues and me in Liberia to get new leadership to the RUF to advance the peace when Foday Sankoh was arrested in Freetown, putting the whole process under strain.

Contrary to how I have been portrayed before this Court, and what is now reflected in the summary of the judgement, respectfully, I was not and could not have been a two-headed Janus, ever. In the context of my effort for peace in neighbouring Sierra Leone, I, Your Honour, too believe in honour and integrity. These are seriously complex situations and are not just cut and dried as one may want to make them appear.

I was president of Liberia. I was not some petty trader on the streets of Monrovia or in the general market. Liberia was still recovering from war, where at least five warring parties had come together for peace but still with divided loyalties. My personal security was still threatened as things were still fluid in the country. For anyone to believe that I had to be everywhere, know or be told everything, and monitor whatever little corrupt ex-combatant, crook or petty hustler did at some check-point or border post is unfortunate and disturbing.

National security briefings to leaders the world over are brief and intended to inform the leaders on strategic matters and not a journal to occupy the leaders' schedule. Sadly, right here in this court building, according to classified documents leaked, an individual or individuals spied for and reported to the US embassy here in The Hague, and I suggest Your Honours may still not know who did the spying.

How, then, could any reasonable person suggest that any of what was happening within the frontal view of the president, he had to know? It simply defies logic, with respect.

I say without stupor that my actions were genuine and done with one thing in mind: Helping to bring peace to Sierra Leone, thus providing an enabling environment for progress in both countries, Liberia being my constitutional responsibility as president.

Unfortunately, and as a result of the efforts on the part of my government for peace in Sierra Leone, there now appears to have been collateral activities undertaken by some unsavory individuals that led to consequences that I was entirely unaware of and could not have ameliorated or prevented.

As I have done before many times, I do again here and now. I express my sadness and deepest sympathy for the atrocities and crimes that were suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone. I too have experienced pain and sadness and know what it is. I lost my father, my oldest brother, my youngest brother, and a host of other relatives, friends, and acquaintances during the war in Liberia, as well as peace-loving Liberian citizens.

I am 64 years old, not young anymore. I am the father of many children, grand-children and great-grand. I am of no threat to society. In Liberia I commenced the process of healing by putting into place a peace and reconciliation commission modelled after that of South Africa. I say with respect, reconciliation and healing, not retribution, should be the guiding principles in Your Honours' task.

Thank you very much.

I would just like to say before I sit that I did not have the opportunity to congratulate Justice Sebutinde for her election to a position in the International Court of Justice. Now, some may say, well, you should not accept it, Your Honour, from a convicted war criminal. I'm sorry, I probably should have done this in February but I didn't have the opportunity.

But I would like to do so now. I think that all women in Africa are very proud of you. And for the other Judges that will, I'm sure, sure move on to other greater and better things, please accept my congratulations in advance.

Thank you.

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