Special Court for Sierra Leone delays Taylor trial until January 2008

Received by mail from HREA, Human Rights Education Associates

Source: Court Delays Taylor Trial until January 7, 2008.
(its Homepage).

August 20, 2007, excerpts: … The Special Court for Sierra Leone today ordered a delay in Charles Taylor’s trial until January 7, 2008. Presiding Judge Sebutinde granted the Defense request for a four-month delay based in part on the newly composed defense team’s need for additional time to prepare for trial, as well as the Prosecution’s lack of opposition to such a delay. As Brenda Hollis from the Office of the Prosecutor stated, the Prosecution agrees that the defense has shown “good cause for reasonable delay.” Justice Sebutinde emphasized that it is entirely within the Trial Chamber’s discretion to order such a delay …


… Griffiths revealed the defense team’s interest in avoiding the use of live testimony and eliminating any “emotional baggage” the Prosecution intends to put before the Court. He questioned why the Prosecution would want traumatized women who had been raped and individuals who were mutilated to travel to The Hague when their evidence would be of little relevance to the trial. Griffiths argued that such crime-based testimony is irrelevant because the Defense concedes that atrocities occurred in Sierra Leone. According to Griffiths, the Prosecution is not arguing that Taylor was on the ground issuing commands in Sierra Leone; therefore, the relevant evidence is that of the linkage witnesses and not the crime-based witnesses. Hollis argued, however, that live testimony is “of course” relevant to detail the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged crimes.

The defense team expressed concern over the UN-imposed travel bans on certain individuals connected to the accused. According to Griffiths, many individuals are afraid to testify for the Defense because they may be subject to such travel bans. Given the “climate of fear in Liberia,” Griffiths argued that these travel bans may have a chilling effect on Taylor’s ability to receive a fair trial. Griffiths urged the Special Court to rule on the Defense Motion to address this matter with the Security Council. (full text).

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