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

Thank you, Madam President.

Madam President, your Honours, the area that I want to deal with principally this morning is a fairly discrete area and relates to matters of credibility. And, in particular, specifically to the credibility of some of the Prosecution witnesses.

We have, in our final trial brief, set out general propositions on credibility. In paragraphs 1382 to 1401. And we set out in those paragraphs our understanding of the jurisprudence in relation to credibility of witnesses, the approach that a court should take to the credibility of witnesses, the dangers that arise, particularly from reliance on insider witnesses, many of whom are, of course, accomplices and the court will not need to hear from me any lengthy exposition of the law on accomplice evidence and the caution that the Court is bound to apply when considering the evidence of accomplices. Likewise, we have had a great deal of hearsay evidence from witnesses in this case. Hearsay, of course, is, or can be, an element affecting the credibility of a witness. And, in particular, hearsay cannot be corroborated by more hearsay, so a witness, who is not in the eyes of the Court particularly credible, can't be made more credible by yet more hearsay on the same subject. Equally, a witness who gives some evidence about an incident that he either saw or was told about cannot be corroborated or supported, his evidence cannot be made more credible by another witness who comes along and says that the first witness told me whatever it is that he saw or heard about.

These are all aspects of credibility. They are dealt with, as I've said, in the opening paragraphs of our final section of the closing - of the final brief on this matter, and we've given some examples after paragraph 1401 of particular individual witnesses whose credibility is especially in issue. That list, I make absolutely clear, is not exhaustive. There are many other witnesses whose credibility we called into doubt, in many cases grave doubt, who are not specifically addressed in that final section.

But in my remarks to you this morning, what I will be submitting, in the context of this terribly important case, involving grave charges against Mr Taylor, the accused, we say that in this case, there are so many examples of egregious implausibility, and in a number of cases, downright lies by particular Prosecution witnesses. We submit that it is appropriate, in the circumstances of this case, to completely put aside several Prosecution witnesses altogether. And we say, quite boldly, forget the exercise of looking to see if there is support for something that that witness says from other witnesses. If there is, then rely on those other witnesses alone. In our submission, some of these Prosecution witnesses have been so damaged that no reliance should be put upon them.

Their evidence, in short, is such that their credibility is so seriously undermined as to render them wholly - wholly - lacking in credibility.

Now, another element of credibility is the whole question of payments to witnesses. And, indeed, to potential witnesses. Now, let me try to put that into some kind of context.

All the ad hoc criminal tribunals that we are aware of operate a witness and victims section, which provides services to witnesses once they are formally declared as a witness, including reasonable expenses to meet the expenses that they have incurred by cooperating with whichever branch of the Court it may be. Those expenses may include the cost of security and protection to vulnerable witnesses and their dependents, including, in some cases, relocation expenses. And we have no difficulty with that. Inevitably, witnesses in cases of this sort are going to have to be, from time to time, relocated, moved, given certain kinds of protection, all of which cost money. Inevitably, witnesses are going to have to travel, in some cases, in order to be interviewed by the Prosecution, or for that matter, the Defence. That is going to cause them costs, it may involve them in loss of earnings. All of those are legitimate expenses.

However, we say that some of the evidence in this case demonstrates, very clearly, that some Prosecution witnesses have been rewarded, have, to put it bluntly, profited from their connection with the Prosecution. The Prosecution, as you are aware, has its own fund, in complete contrast to the Defence, has its own fund from which witnesses are paid money or out of which witnesses' expenses of one sort or another are defrayed, not necessarily given directly to the witness but some expenditure on the witness's behalf has been made.

This is a fund whose provenance has never been disclosed, the Prosecution have never said where they get the money from, they've never said how much it is, and, indeed, although they claim to have established clear criteria as to the categories of money that can be spent, the criteria are, we submit, very vague and often disputed by the witnesses in question. To take but one example a witness on a number of occasions in this trial has said they were paid money, which we see in the documentation is said to be for loss of earnings, when the witness has said, well, I wasn't earning anything at the time. That's just one example. The Court has many such examples in the evidence. We say that in some cases it is clear beyond doubt, that this fund, this money, has been used to encourage witnesses to give evidence rather than simply to put them in a position where they are not economically disadvantaged or their security at risk by their cooperation with the Prosecution.

Put bluntly, in our submission, this fund has been used in such a way, on occasions, as to taint the testimony of some of the Prosecution witnesses.

By lavishing funds on witnesses which go well beyond compensating them for their actual expenses or losses consequent on their giving time to the Prosecution, this money, we say, has been used to pollute the pure waters of justice and the court cannot turn a blind eye to the effect that such financial rewards are likely to have on the evidence, and we invite the Court, when considering each and every witness about whom you have heard evidence of receipt of monies, to look very carefully at that witness's evidence. If there are obvious inconsistencies between what they have said previously to the Prosecution and what they've said, either in court or in the run-up to their testimony in court, look, we submit, look at the way in which they have been financially rewarded for their cooperation with the Prosecution.

Now, it is, of course, completely and utterly naive to expect any witness to say, "Well, this money that the Prosecution spent on me, or spent on me and my family, made me more willing to tell them what they wanted to know." Life, frankly is not like that. You, as judges, bring your experience of the world and your common sense to bear on the evidence that you are assessing. You, as the finders of fact, of course, apply good sense to the whole picture.

The very practice of giving handouts which go way beyond the actual cost of the witness's expense, itself strikes at the heart of justice, and it does so in a particularly insidious way, precisely because no witness is ever going to admit as much and in some cases may not even recognise that they have been affected by the largesse that has been lavished on them. We invite the Court to say that where there are examples of this practice, and I'm going to turn to some in due course, where there are examples, the Court should disregard the evidence of witnesses involved, unless there is strong and real corroboration from other sources.

And may I then move to the way in which this fund has been operated in practice and take the Court to a particular account.

I'm going to do so by reference to a witness who wasn't actually called but was a potential witness in this case, a potential Prosecution witness, and indeed, as is the case with a number of witnesses in this trial, also a potential Defence witness. There are other examples that I'm going to come to in due course, but we submit that when you look at the way in which money has been doled out, it clearly indicates that the Prosecution have been willing to encourage people to cooperate with them by financial handouts.

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