Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Taylor Defence Want More Time

Defence lawyers for former Liberian president Charles Taylor are seeking leave to appeal the decision to start his International Criminal Court, ICC, trial on June 4, saying that they need more time to prepare their case.
By Caroline Tosh
In their April 30 application, Taylor’s lawyers argue that judges have failed to give proper regard to defence concerns that preparation time was lost as a result of video surveillance cameras installed in the room where they consult with their client, from November 10, 2006 to March 22, 2007.

They argue that for three and a half months “client-attorney privilege was seriously impinged” as a result of the video cameras.

Taylor was first indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in March 2003, for his alleged role in the 10-year civil war during which tens of thousands died. For security reasons, proceedings will be held at the ICC in The Hague.

He is accused of having supported the Revolutionary United Front, RUF, rebels, who - according to the indictment - launched armed attacks on the civilian population of Sierra Leone.

Lawyers suspended consultations with Taylor at the beginning of March to protest the cameras, which they argue had a “chilling effect” on their discussions. The ICC agreed to stop using them on March 22.

On April 17, the defence called for the trial to be put back to September to make up for the time lost.

In the three and a half months the cameras were installed, the defence was “hamstrung and largely unable to take proper instructions from the accused, causing substantial impairment to its trial preparation programme”, said the motion.

But on April 25, judges said moving the trial back three months was not justified because although the video surveillance began on November 10, the defence team “didn’t actually suspend consultations until March 5”.

The judges said the trial would start on July 4 as scheduled, but added that the prosecution would start its case by making an opening statement only. The case will then adjourn for 18 days “to make up for preparation time lost by the defence”.

Caroline Tosh is an IWPR reporter.