Wednesday, January 26, 2011

At Status Conference, Defense Lawyers Say They Will Not File Final Trial Brief Until Outstanding Matters Are Dealt With

Source: The Trial of Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor’s defense team will not file any final trial briefs until several outstanding motions before the Trial and Appeals Chamber are disposed of, the former Liberian president’s lead defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, told the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges at a status conference Thursday in The Hague.

The status conference had been convened to give defense lawyers the opportunity to explain why they had failed to file their final trial brief on the January 14, 2011 deadline that had been ordered by the judges, and also why they had refused to accept service of the prosecution’s final trial brief.

“Mr. Taylor has provided us with written instructions that we are not to file a final trial brief until such a time as decisions are reached on all outstanding motions and appeals,” Mr. Griffiths told the court yesterday at the opening of the status conference.

“This is not meant to be a delaying tactic. It is a point, in our submission, of fundamental principle,” Mr. Griffiths added.

When asked by the Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber, Justice Teresa Doherty, whether it is the intention of the defense team to submit a final trial brief, Mr. Griffiths responded that “we do intend to file a final brief, circumstances permitting.”

Mr. Griffiths explained that at the time that the Court made an order for final briefs to be submitted by all parties on January 14, 2011, certain matters which must be addressed by the Court had not arisen. These matters, Mr. Griffiths said, are important in order to decide “on all the issues to include in [the defense] final brief.”

“At the time the order was made, we did not know, for example, about the WikiLeaks cables which implicated the very integrity of the Prosecution and the Court,” Mr. Griffiths said.

On why the defense had refused to accept service of the prosecution’s final brief, Mr. Griffiths told the court, “We do not want to be accused in due course of tailoring our final brief, no pun intended, based on the contents of the Prosecution’s submissions. We want our submissions to stand alone in their own right.”

When asked to respond to the submissions made by the defense, Chief Prosecutor Brenda J. Hollis told the Court that the “accused has made a deliberate election not to file a final trial brief.”

Ms. Hollis added that to allow the accused to file final briefs only when conditions are appropriate for him will, ”in effect, let him sit in the middle of the courtroom and run the trial.”

“He has no such right. No accused has such a right,” Ms. Hollis added.

Mr. Griffiths on his part responded, “Mr. Taylor is not seeking to control these proceedings. He is seeking, instead, to get a fair trial.”

The judges adjourned briefly to deliberate on the matter. When court resumed, the judges issued a majority ruling, with Justice Julia Sebutinde dissenting.

In the ruling, which did not say in clear terms whether and when the defense were to file their final brief, the judges, by majority said, “The majority of the Trial Chamber, Justice Sebutinde dissenting, consider that they have not heard submissions that causes the Trial Chamber to review or amend the original orders rendered on 22 October 2010.”

The order of October 22, 2010 required all parties to submit final trial briefs by January 14, 2011.

The judges added, “The outstanding appeals and motions referred to were filed after the Defence closed its case, at a time when the Trial Chamber expected that the Defence would be preparing its final brief.”

“The decisions on outstanding motions and appeals may call for further orders to be made in relation to the presentation of the Defence case and in the interests of a fair trial. But the Trial Chamber emphasises that any such orders will be made by the Trial Chamber and not by Mr Taylor. Mr Taylor does not have the option of obeying or disobeying court orders as he sees fit,” the judges added.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sebutinde said, ”For me, it would not be fair to ask the defendant to wrap up his defence when there are issues on the table of the judges that we have not been able to deal with yet. In other words, the ball is in the court – is in the court of the Court, so to speak.”

“In my view, it is not unreasonable for Mr Taylor to say to the judges, ‘I will file a trial brief as soon as you give me the judgments or the decisions that I’m waiting for.’ On the other hand, what we are saying to Mr Taylor is, ‘File a piecemeal final brief in your defence,’” she added.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Doherty, then adjourned proceedings until February 8, 2011 when closing arguments will commence.

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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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