Saturday, November 13, 2010

Defense Lawyers Formally Close Their Case in the Charles Taylor Trial

Alpha Sesay

Defense lawyers for Charles Taylor today formally closed their case after calling 21 witnesses to testify on behalf of the former Liberian president in response to an 11 count indictment in which Prosecutors allege that Mr. Taylor provided support to and was in control of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, who waged an 11 year civil conflict in the West African nation. Mr. Taylor has denied all allegations against him.

Between January 2008 and February 2009, Prosecutors led 91 witness in evidence against Mr. Taylor, some of whom were victims of the conflict in Sierra Leone, while others were insider witnesses comprising of former members of the RUF, former members of Mr. Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), and former members of Mr. Taylor's Liberian government, including his former vice president Moses Blah. The victim witnesses testified mainly about the atrocities that were committed by RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, while the insider witnesses attempted to link Mr. Taylor to the RUF and their activities in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Taylor's lawyers formally opened the defense case on July 13, 2009, and the following day, the former Liberian president himself took the witness stand as a witness in his own defense. Mr. Taylor concluded his testimony on February 18, 2010. Mr. Taylor's final witness, a Liberian member of the RUF, Sam Flomo Kolleh, concluded his evidence on Tuesday, November 9, 2010.

In bringing Mr. Taylor's defense to a formal closure today, lead defense counsel for the accused, Courtenay Griffiths, told the judges, "I'm grateful first of all to your honors for dealing with such alacrity with the outstanding motions, and I am pleased to announce that is the case for Mr. Taylor."

Mr. Griffiths thanked all the parties involved in the trial for their "contributions in ensuring that the proceedings in the courtroom have run as efficiently and smoothly as they have done."

"In thirty years of practice, this is the first trial I have been involved in of this magnitude involving so much evidence in which so little time has been lost either through illness or any other matter, and I think everyone ought to be commended for their efforts in ensuring that that was the case," Mr. Griffiths said.

Mr. Griffiths also said that the differences in positions inside the courtroom should not be interpreted that the defense does not share the concerns of the victims of the conflict in Sierra Leone.

"I would also, in light of the comments I make, like to make clear that it has been accepted by us right from the outset that terrible crimes were committed in Sierra Leone. We share the concerns for the victims of these crimes, and we want to make clear that differences between the parties in the courtroom should not be exploited as evidence that either party naturally assumes a morally superior position," he said.

"On that note, this is the case for Mr. Taylor," Mr. Griffiths concluded.

Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber, Justice Julia Sebutinde, thanked all parties who have worked to get the trial to this stage. She announced that after today's formal closure of the defense case, the court will resume again to hear closing arguments from the parties from February 8 to 11, 2011 before the judges retire for judgment.

In a press release issued by the Office of the Prosecutor, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Brenda J. Hollis, said that today's closure of the defense case "is an important step towards the completion of the Charles Taylor trial."

Ms. Hollis thanked witnesses who have testified for both the prosecution and the defense, saying that "their courage and willingness to take the stand and bear witness has been an inspiration. We in the prosecution have always said that we fight for justice in the name of the victims, but they are the ones who have truly made justice possible".

In another press release issued by the Outreach and Public Affairs section of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Registrar of the court, Binta Mansaray, said that the closure of the defense case "is not only a major milestone in the Charles Taylor trial, but in the work of the court as a whole."

Mr. Taylor's trial will resume on February 8, 2010 to hear closing arguments from the parties.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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