As Charles Taylor boycotts trial, Sierra Leone's war-battered residents hope for justice
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor faces indictments on 11 counts, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and the use of child soldiers in a brutal civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone.
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor boycotted his war crimes trial in The Hague for a second day on Wednesday, further delaying the court’s ruling on whether he bears responsibility for the civil war that ravaged the West African country of Sierra Leone for more than a decade.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
It is the latest bizarre twist in the drawn-out trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, established in 2003 “to try those who bear the greatest responsibility” for the war that brutalized the country in the 1990s. Proceedings have included Shakespearean monologues from Mr. Taylor along with testimonies from British supermodel Naomi Campbell and American actor-activist Mia Farrow.
But here in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, the public remains confident that the law will eventually catch up with Taylor, who faces indictments on 11 counts, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and the use of child soldiers.
“Charles Taylor is pretending to the world that he’s innocent,” says Theresa Turay, a Sierra Leonean who lived through the country’s gruesome 11-year civil war. “But he has to face the trial. He has to face the penalty.”
“If you play evil," she adds, "it will come back for you."
The trial, which heard its first witness in January 2008, was set to come to an end Friday. Prosecutors presented their closing arguments Tuesday, and the defense was meant to do the same today. If closing arguments had wrapped up as planned this week, a ruling in the case could have been expected sometime later this year. Taylor’s boycott has thrown that schedule into disarray.
'This is about ego, not justice'
Taylor’s lawyers led the walkout Tuesday, claiming the court wrongly rejected their 547-page trial summary, which was filed three weeks late despite multiple warnings from the court.
Speaking outside the courtroom Wednesday morning, Taylor’s lead lawyer Courtenay Griffiths insisted that the court’s refusal to accept the trial summary was evidence of its bias against the defense team. The British lawyer said he plans to appeal, a process that could delay a ruling in the case indefinitely.
“It's about simply this: ‘You're not running this court, Mr. Taylor, and we're going to show you who's in charge by rejecting your final brief,’ ” Mr. Griffiths said today outside the court, reports the Associated Press. “So this is about ego, not justice, and I really don't see that this kind of personalized politics has any part to play in a court of law."
Chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis shot back, claiming that Taylor’s team was just trying to buy time. “The accused is not attending a social event. He may not R.S.V.P. at the last minute. He is the accused at a criminal proceeding,” Ms. Hollis said.