Global Policy Forum

Charles Taylor Lawyer Storms Out of War Crimes Trial

Charles Taylor's lawyer Courtenay Griffiths stormed out of the courtroom to protest the court's decision not to accept a written summary of the defense's case. Griffiths accuses the court of flouting Taylor's right to defend himself, but the court argues that the summary was submitted 20 days past the January 4 deadline. Taylor, Liberia's former president, is on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone for supporting rebel groups responsible for atrocities during Sierra Leone's civil war. The court is expected to hear closing statements soon and render a verdict later this year.

The Telegraph
January 2011

Courtenay Griffiths, a British attorney, ignored judges at the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone who ordered him to stay in court after unprecedented angry exchanges erupted before closing arguments in the three-year case.

"How will posterity judge the credibility of this court if, at this 11th hour, they prevented Mr Taylor from presenting ... 90 percent of his closing arguments?" Mr Griffiths said outside court.

He said he refused to "lend legitimacy to proceedings" by staying.

But prosecutor Brenda Hollis argued that Taylor and his lawyers had no right to walk out.

"The accused is not attending a social event. He may not RSVP at the last minute," Miss Hollis said. "He is the accused at a criminal proceeding."

Taylor himself remained in court as Miss Hollis began summing up the prosecution case.

On Monday, the three-judge panel issued a majority decision rejecting Taylor's final brief in which his lawyers summed up their defence case, because it was filed 20 days after their Jan. 14 deadline.

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

Taylor, the first former African head of state to be tried by an international court, has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture and using child soldiers.

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

Taylor however, in months testifying on his own behalf, cast himself as a statesman who tried to pacify Western Africa.

Taylor boycotted the opening of his trial in June 2007 and fired his defence team, saying he had not had enough time to prepare his defense. The trial got under way again six months later.


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