Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Charles Taylor's boycotts end of war crimes trial

By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press

Source: allAfrica.com

Charles Taylor's
LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands – Charles Taylor's war crimes trial is ending the way it began — with the former Liberian president boycotting proceedings and claiming they are politically motivated and unfair.

Taylor's British attorney Courtenay Griffiths stormed out of the courtroom Tuesday after judges at the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone refused to accept his 600-page summary of the case — a key document that distills three years of testimony from the defense's perspective.

Taylor briefly stayed in his seat but later refused to return to the courtroom after a break. Griffiths said it would have been "unseemly" if Taylor had tried to walk out with his lawyer and had struggled with his U.N. guards.

The boycott was unlikely to have an impact on the outcome of the case. The three international judges ordered the proceedings to continue, and one judge appeared visibly angry at what he called Taylor's attempt to dictate to the court.

"If Mr. Taylor thinks he can make orders or disobey orders of this court at will, simply because he thinks it is in his best interest to do so, then he is running this court, not us," said Judge Richard Lussick, of Samoa.

Taylor is accused of arming and supporting murderous rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for illegally mined diamonds. He has pleaded innocent to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and using child soldiers.

His trial marks the first time a former African head of state has appeared before an international war crimes tribunal.

"Look at it from the point of view of the legacy of the tribunal," Griffith said after defying judges by walking out of the courtroom. "The most important defendant (could be) convicted without the judges hearing his lawyer's closing arguments."

The tribunal, in a majority decision, refused Monday to accept Griffiths' final brief because it was filed after the Jan. 14 deadline.

Ugandan Judge Julia Sebutinde dissented, warning that refusing to accept Taylor's summation "is to deny him his fundamental right to defend himself."

Griffiths conceded the late filing, but said rejecting it for being 20 days late, "within the context of a trial lasting three years is, in my submission, totally unreasonable."

He said he would appeal the decision.

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis accused Taylor of deliberately defying the court, just as he did when he boycotted its opening in June 2007, leading to a six-month delay.

"We have seen this attempt at manipulation of the proceedings at the beginning and now we are seeing it at the end," Hollis said.

"The accused is not attending a social event. He may not R.S.V.P. at the last minute," Hollis said. "He is the accused at a criminal proceeding."

Prosecutors allege Taylor armed and supported rebels responsible for many of the worst atrocities of Sierra Leone's civil war, which left tens of thousands of people dead and many more mutilated after enemy fighters hacked off their limbs, noses or lips.

In her summation, Hollis laid the blame for the atrocities firmly at Taylor's feet, saying he used the rebels to pillage Sierra Leone's mineral wealth and in particular its diamonds.

"Charles Taylor, this intelligent, charismatic manipulator, had his proxy forces ... carry out these crimes against helpless victims in Sierra Leone," she said. "All this suffering, all these atrocities, to feed the greed and lust for power of Charles Taylor."

Griffiths has argued that the U.N.-backed tribunal is a tool of major world powers and particularly the United States to keep Taylor out of Liberia, the West African country he ruled as an elected president from 1997-2003 after seizing power in a bloody civil war.

Griffiths said leaks from the court to U.S. embassy officials in The Hague and a diplomatic cable from the American embassy in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, expose U.S. designs regarding Taylor.

"The best we can do for Liberia is to see to it that Taylor is put away for a long time" said the cable, dated March 10, 2009, and released by WikiLeaks website. Griffiths said the cable showed the tribunal is not independent "because the Americans are already putting in place contingency plans so if Mr. Taylor is acquitted they will put him on trial again in the United States."

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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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