War crimes trial of former Liberian leader postponed by UN-backed court
The war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor has been postponed until early next year after judges at the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) agreed today to give defence lawyers more time to study the evidence.
Mr. Taylor’s counsel applied for a delay until 7 January so they could evaluate some 40,000 pages of evidence recently disclosed by prosecutors, SCSL spokesperson Solomon Moriba told the UN News Service from The Hague, where the trial is being held.
Justices Julia Sebutinde (presiding), Teresa Doherty and Richard Lussick approved the application during a status conference, one in a series that will be held over the next few months to assess the progress of the prosecution and the defence in presenting their cases.
Mr. Taylor is facing 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, which borders Liberia.
A year ago the Security Council authorized the staging of Mr. Taylor’s trial at The Hague, citing reasons of security and expediency. Although the trial will be held at the premises of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it will remain under the exclusive jurisdiction of the SCSL.
The Special Court, established in January 2002 by an agreement between the Sierra Leonean Government and the UN, is mandated to try “those who bear greatest responsibility” for war crimes and crimes against community committed in the country after 30 November 1996.
Last month it reached an agreement with the United Kingdom that will mean Mr. Taylor will be imprisoned in the UK if he is convicted.