UN-backed court in Sierra Leone unveils start date for trial of former Liberian leader

UN-backed court in Sierra Leone unveils start date for trial of former Liberian leader

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The war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, the notorious former Liberian president, will begin on 4 June with opening arguments, the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone announced today following a pre-trial conference in The Hague.

The war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, the notorious former Liberian president, will begin on 4 June with opening arguments, the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone announced today following a pre-trial conference in The Hague.

“That Charles Taylor will now face justice is the very embodiment of the maxim that no one is above the law,” Special Court Prosecutor Stephen Rapp said, calling the staging of the trial “a victory over impunity,” according to a press statement released by the Court.

“Taylor’s indictment, apprehension and arrest are a credit to the persistence of the world community, the governments of the region and, above all, the courageous people of Sierra Leone.”

Mr. Taylor faces 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including mass murder, mutilations, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers, for his role in the decade-long civil war that engulfed Sierra Leone. He was indicted on those charges in March 2003.

Last June the Security Council authorized the staging of Mr. Taylor’s trial at The Hague in the Netherlands, citing reasons of security and expediency. Prosecutors have indicated they plan to call up to 139 core witnesses and have said previously that the trial could take about 12 to 18 months.

The Special Court was established on 16 January 2002 by an agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN and is mandated to try “those who bear greatest responsibility” for war crimes and crimes against community committed in the country after 30 November 1996. So far 11 people have been indicted.