By Moco McCaulay
The Special Court for Sierra Leone has once again dealt Charles Taylor, the former Liberian leader, yet another blow in his legal saga in the Hague. The judges on Friday, March 9th, denied Taylor’s defense team request to have the recently announced April 26 final verdict delivery date moved to April 30 due to Courtenay Griffiths’, Taylor’s lead defense counsel, prior engagement in another case in England.
According to reports from the special court, the judges’ unanimous denial of the defense motion was based on the fact that they believed that Mr. Griffiths had “more than reasonable time” to adjust his schedule to be present at the delivery of Taylor’s final verdict on April 26. The judges opined that since their announcement on March 1 that they would deliver the final trial judgment on April 26, Mr. Griffiths had more than 8 weeks to make arrangements to be present on the date of Taylor’s verdict.
This most recent motion follows an earlier one submitted on January 13, 2012 by Taylor’s defense team to have their case re-opened to allow them to submit into evidence the December 2011 UN Panel of Experts Report on Liberia regarding the involvement of Liberian mercenaries in the Ivorian crisis.
The defense team submitted that the UN Panel report, which had apparently named Joseph Zig Zag Marzah, a key prosecution witness who had testified that Taylor had directly ordered and supported Liberian mercenarism in the Sierra Leonean civil war, as also having participated as a mercenary in the Ivorian crisis.
According to the defense team, the findings of the UN Panel report therefore supported their argument that Liberian fighters who had participated in the Sierra Leonean civil conflict were engaged in a “private enterprise” for personal gain, rather than as part of some organized mercenary expedition that was cooked up and directed by Charles Taylor, as the prosecution had contended. But the judges had unanimously rejected the defense motion.
Taylor’s Judgment Day Etched in Stone
That was on February 9. Now exactly a month later, the judges have once again unanimously shot down the defense request to change the date for the delivery of Taylor’s final verdict to accommodate Mr. Griffiths’ schedule due to his prior commitment with another case.
The defense had also requested to have Taylor’s final verdict date moved from April 26 because it would “be in bad taste” and could pose a security risk to Sierra Leone since the date would coincide with the country’s 51st Independence Day celebrations on April 27, 2012.
“These events are typically an emotive time for the country as it reflects on its past and celebrates its future. The delivery of the Taylor judgment on the eve of the Independence Day would thus eclipse this historic festive occasion,” Taylor’s defense team had argued, according to the special court reports.
In its counter, which was observably laced with double entendre, the prosecution contended that moving Taylor’s final verdict delivery date from April 26 to April 30 would affect Taylor’s right to “a fair and expeditious trial.” The prosecution argued further that the defense’s claim that delivering the verdict on April 26 would pose a security risk to Sierra Leone was purely speculative.
Admittedly, I am the farthest away from a Taylor sympathizer, but after over three and a half years of the Taylor legal saga, do you believe for a moment that the prosecution suddenly really cares so much about an expeditious trial for Taylor? Ostensibly, the prosecution cares so much that they even submitted that if the judges would consider changing the date for the delivery of Taylor’s final verdict, they should move it to the afternoon of April 27, on Sierra Leone’s Independence Day.
The judges sided with the prosecution, denying Taylor’s defense team motion for the final verdict delivery date to be moved. So it is now etched in stone that Judgment Day for Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor will surely come on April 26, 2012.
The die has been cast for Charles Taylor
And if there is anyone out there who is still speculating about whether the verdict will be guilty or not guilty, stop the speculation and observe the devil is in the details and you will see that, for all intents and purposes, the die has been cast for Mr. Taylor.
If you ever entertained thoughts of Taylor returning home jubilantly with Liberians spreading outlappas along his path, discard those thoughts. And if you otherwise feared that Taylor would end up returning home to such a welcome, your fears are unfounded.
There may probably be some people, in what I can only attribute to a blindness of naivety, who still believe that the judges, in some weird twist of randomness, somehow selected April 26 as the date for the delivery of the final verdict in Taylor’s trial without knowing that it was the eve of Sierra Leone’s Independence Day. Well I’m certainly not one of them.
And one would therefore have to almost suspend their reasoning to really think that the Special Court for Sierra Leone would knowingly pick this date only to deliver a verdict that would do anything but increase the crescendo of festivities on the eve of the country’s 51st Independence Day.
Accuse me, if you will, of being a wanna-be Nostradamus, but the writing on the wall is far too clear to be ignored. And if you too cannot see its illuminating symbolism in the crystal ball, then let me tell you what I see:
On April 26, the presiding judge’s gavel will fall and Taylor will be found guilty, and on receiving the news, the people of Sierra Leone will burst into a fit jubilation. They will celebrate all through the night, and on their Independence Day, they will remember those who died during their civil war and beat their patriotic chests in celebration of the guilty verdict that the long arm of the law had slapped upon Taylor.
- Charles Taylor lawyers seek to reopen defense case (seattletimes.nwsource.com)