Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sierra Leone: Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, War Criminal?

Geraldine Coughlan


Leidschendam — The judgement in the high-profile trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor is expected within months.Taylor is the first African former head of state to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Charles Taylor was one of Africa's most feared warlords. He fled Liberia in 2003 and is on trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in Leidschendam. He is accused of supporting Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels during the civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone during the 1990s.
Brenda Hollis is the Prosecutor of the SCSL and the chief prosecutor in the Taylor trial.

As lead prosecutor in the Taylor trial, what is your main task in prosecuting a former head of state?

"First of all, one of the fundamental challenges is - just how do you prepare an indictment? An indictment that is both efficient and reflective of the crimes that you allege the accused is involved in. This has to be done within a reasonable period of time. So that's the first challenge - how do you actually fashion the indictment?"

How do you make sure you get the accused into custody?
The second challenge is - if you have an indictment that's been approved - how do you actually get physical custody of an accused? Especially if you're talking about a senior-level accused, it may be very difficult because political agendas - concerns about impacts on states or regions - and security issues may be very significant factors as to whether a state or region will support turning someone over. It may be almost impossible to get someone.

Or it may be that a number of years pass before a person is turned over to the court. So these kinds of political and security issues that are totally beyond the ability of the court to control may actually preclude you from bringing a person to court physically to be given a fair trial.

How do you go about selecting the evidence in these large and complex cases so that you can prove your case efficiently?
These crimes usually extend over long periods of time, over many locations, with such a variety of victims and survivors. You may also have issues with insider witnesses who perhaps are still affiliated with a former head of state, and so will not come forward to give the information that they have. Or maybe they're concerned about their own personal liability and won't come forward.

You may also have resistance from regional, state or international actors who have interacted with the accused or the perpetrator groups. For various political or other reasons they may not want to give you access to the evidence within their possession - and don't want to give evidence themselves. So you have real issues in selecting your evidence and making a manageable case.

Protecting witnesses is another big challenge. Former heads of state and their high-level former commanders and associates may have very organised means of interfering with witnesses - by bribing, threatening or harming them. So you have to be worried about their protection before, during and after trial.

Lawyers call it Just Convict Everyone, but is JCE (Joint Criminal Enterprise) the best way to prosecute former leaders like Charles Taylor?
Of course, there are different forms of liability that you may allege. And the issue that arises very often where an accused is involved over a long period of time is that the accused - especially a high-level accused, may engage in various forms of liability at various times.

For example, they may give orders to the perpetrator groups that are criminal in nature, resulting in heinous crimes being committed.They may aid and abet from the very beginning till the very end. And they may be part of a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE).

The challenge here is not so much the breadth of the JCE: the breadth of it simply means you have more evidence that you have to present. But the issue of the JCE for the prosecution and the defence. Also for the trial chamber in reaching its judgement is to understand the concept and to be able to clearly apply the law. But I believe the JCE is a very appropriate form of liability for these cases."

 Source: Radio Netherlands

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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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