Salone News

At The Hague: Taylor Continues Delay Tactics

27 June 2007 at 20:18 | 226 views

By Teddy Foday-Musa, at the Hague.

The absence of Charles Taylor at the second session of his trial at The Hague on Monday 25th June became the corner stone of legal arguments from both sides of the court.

The courtroom was however enveloped in another atmosphere of disappointment, when the judge made it clear that Charles Taylor, was again absent for the second session of his trial.

The trial chamber was left with no alternative but to slam an obligatory mandate on Mr. Taylor to appear in court at all times from now on. I bring you below a blow by blow narrative of what transpired on the 25th June at The Hague:

First session.

The key court officials

· Judge: Julia Sebutinde

· Prosecutor: Miss Brenda Hollis (Senior Trial Attorney).

· Defence: Vincent Nmehielle (Principal Defender for Taylor)

The case was called.

· The court session started at 9:00 am

· The judge entered and took her seat.

· At 9:02, the judge requested the court officials to call up the case.

· The judge further announced the absence of Mr. Charles Taylor.

· She also recognized the presence of the principal defender of Mr. Charles Taylor.

· During the opening of the trial on the 4th June, the registrar received an order from the judge to facilitate the travel of the principal defender to The Hague upon the request of Mr. Taylor. Therefore, Mr. Nmehielle(principal defender being in court was in fulfillment of that request.

· The Judge called for the appearances: “I would like to take the appearances.”

. Miss Brenda Hollis was announced for the prosecution, while Vincent Nmehielle as the principal defender for Taylor.

It was at this point that the judge directed the question at Mr. Nmehielle, as to who will be addressing the court on behalf of Mr. Taylor, since he was absent. She ended up by asking also why Taylor was absent.

The principle defender, Mr. Nmehielle
responded by saying that he got a call only this morning from Mr. Taylor , saying that he will not be present in court. “When I asked Mr. Taylor why he was not coming to court today, he told me that you all (Trial Chamber) know why he will not be in court today.”

The Judge responded:

“But where did he get this idea from that we already know why he is not in court today?” She further went on to say “for the records, the Chamber is not informed, I wonder where he got the idea from.”

The judge, making reference to rule 60 stated that Mr. Taylor has voluntarily absented himself from proceedings.
However, she requested the principal defender to make his submission on behalf of Taylor.

Submission by Principal Defender:

· He started his submission at 9:05.

· He stated that his point of departure will be his travel from Freetown to the Netherlands with regards to article 17.

· He stated that he left Freetown on 14th June and arrived in the Netherlands on the 15th.

· He said since then he has met with Taylor three consecutive times, the 16th, 17th and the 18th of this month.

At this juncture he was beginning to digress when the judge came in with a caution. He was reminded by the judge to restrict his presentation only to article 17, which was related to logistics in enhancing Taylor’s defence.

The principal defender noted the caution and continued with the following;

· That during the meeting with Taylor, he (Taylor) raised concerns about his getting a fair trail.

· That Taylor was very co-operative in presenting this issue

· That until this is addressed, he (Taylor) will choose to defend himself.

It was at this point in time that the judge came in by saying that the monitors were not working. She said this means that the public is not in touch with the current proceedings and that the problem should be rectified with immediate effect.
Having said this, she ordered the principle defendant to continue.

The principal defender continued by stating that he has made it categorically clear to Taylor that representing himself will not be in his own good interest. However, he said that Mr. Taylor kept stressing that “he needs a defence team to match the capacity of the prosecutors in this enormous case...”.

Then the Judge asked him to clarify the kind of legal representation Taylor is asking for.

This is what Taylor wants:

· A leading senior counsel equivalent to a QC.

· A senior Counsel as an addition to assist the advocate on a day-to-day basis.

· That he has long since requested for a P5 but it was cut down to a P3 by the Registry.

· That he requested for a P4 prior to March but to no avail.

· That he requested for an Administrative Officer to be stationed at The Hague which was rejected.

On the whole, he was making a point of putting together a good defence team which implies enormous financial costs.

Mr. Nmehielle‘s presentation almost fell apart when a question was directed at him by one of the judges. The question projected the fact that Mr. Nmehielle knew about all these problems three months before the June 25th session. He was therefore asked the question: “What have you done to address this problem?”

Mr. Nmeheille barely managed his way on this, but his answer was not satisfactory.

However, the judge requested him to tell the court about the replacement of counsel for Taylor, since Mr. Khan has been sacked by Taylor himself.

His answer:

· That the issue is a tricky one and needs to be handled with care.

· That upon his arrival, he only had two working days to replace somebody else with Mr. Khan.

· He said this was not fair on the side of the defence.

· He also stated that he has already contacted three
leading counsels in the UK.

· That the only breakthrough he had with one of them, was a meeting scheduled for the 27th June.

· He further made the point that since this trial was scheduled for the 25th he cannot do more than the ordinary with a promise of talking to counsel on the 27th.

At this point, the judge made it clear that the Principal Defender’s office was mainly established to provide Taylor with a very good defence team. However, she made it clear that the PD does not seem to be doing very well along this line. She stated the following reasons in support of her assertion:

· That the PD presented a list to Mr. Taylor with names of counsels three months ago. Therefore, if Mr. Taylor has rejected all of them, he should have to thought of an alternative ever since.

In response, Mr. Nmehielle projected the financial constraints side of things.
He said that the finances that are set aside for the defence team are not enough to
motivate counsels. He said some of them are asking for more than what is available.

The judge reacted by telling him to cut his coat according to his size. She then called
on the prosecutor to make a statement.

The prosecutor (Miss Brenda Hollis):

· She pointed out that the accused is manipulating the court in his favour.

· She buttressed her point by making it clear that the accused knew about these problems long ago, but only brought them up on the 4th of June (opening session).

· That one of his manipulative actions was to terminate the services of Mr. Khan who was representing him.

· She further said that in as much as Taylor is entitled to adequate representation, he is not entitled to hand-pick those who should represent him at the detriment of the court proceedings.

She suggested the following as a way forward:

· That the trial chamber deals with the issue of self representation suggested by Mr. Taylor, as it could be a way of delaying the proceedings

· That the former defence attorney of Taylor, Mr. Khan, should be recalled to take over the case, unless the chamber deemed it otherwise.

· That the principal defender himself should be part of the defence team.

This took us to the end of the 1st session at 10:25. We were required to come back for the second session at 11: 25.

The second Session:

The second session was designed for a “Way Forward”. It started at 12:13 instead of the stipulated time of 11:25. The judge without wasting time presented the following:

· She started with an apology for coming in late.

· She gave a summary of Taylor’s letter written to the court on the 4th June (Opening day of the trial)

· In this letter, she highlighted the fact that Taylor terminated the services of his lawyer and at the same time, said he will represent himself.

· She said that the Trial Chamber has noted Mr. Taylor’s absence as not only inconsistent with his proclamation of “Self-defence”, but also tantamount to “Boycott”.

· That the Trial Chamber is in agreement with the Prosecution that Mr. Taylor should in person be in court.

Then she read out the following resolutions taken by the Trial Chamber as the “Way Forward” for the Taylor trial.

The Way Forward:

· That Mr. Taylor is now put under obligation by the Trial Chamber to appear in court at all times.

· That if Mr. Taylor chooses to stay away from the trial, it will be considered as “Boycott of Court”.

· That the idea projected by Mr. Taylor to represent himself, has been nullified by the Trial Chamber.

· That the Duty Counsel renders the accused legal services in relation to article 25.

The judge also presented directives to the Registry.

Long-tern Directives to the Registry:

· That the Principal Defender should assemble a good defence team for Mr. Taylor, with the help of the registry.

· And that the team should be comprised of the following:

· One lead counsel-45c

· Two Co-Counsels-45c

· A senior investigator at a P4 level.

The she made the following announcements:

· That the Trial Chamber will be in Freetown between the 12-19 July in order to pass the AFRC verdict.

· That they will be back on the 20th July.

· But then the ICC recess falls on the 20th which will not permit a court seating.


The court was adjourned to the 3rd July 2007.