When Taylor Got His Day in Court: On 16 May, the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL) Gave Charles Taylor the Opportunity to Speak in Court before Sentencing Was Imposed on 30 May. Here Is an Abridged Version of What He Said

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DESPITE OBSTACLES TO ASCER-taining the truth, what was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt as I understood the summary of the judgement, was that Your Honours critically determined in fact, that I could not be held responsible for the substantial charges of 'joint criminal enterprise' and 'superior criminal responsibility' as had been pleaded by the Prosecution ...

Following the verdict of 26 April, the prosecutor [Brenda Hollis] in a press release said the following: Today's historic judgement reinforces the new reality, that heads of state will be held to account for war crimes and other international crimes. This judgement affirms that with leadership comes not just power and authority, but also responsibility and accountability; no person, no matter how powerful, is above the law."

I could not agree more. President George W. Bush not too long ago ordered torture and admitted to doing so. Torture is a crime against humanity. The United States has refused to prosecute him. Is he above the law? Where is the fairness?

Terrible things happened in Sierra Leone and there can be no justification for the terrible crimes. During the war in Liberia, I punished people responsible for crimes against others. Factual evidence presented before this Court proved that several NPFL soldiers were put on trial for various crimes. Some were executed for rape, murder and other serious crimes. Witnesses from both sides testified to that fact. Let me be very, very clear about one thing: I do not condone impunity in any shape or form. Let me say in the strongest terms: I, DahKpannah Dr Charles Ghankay Taylor, did not, could not have ever, and would never have knowingly, and, with responsibility and/or authority to prevent, stop or punish someone for carrying out acts of atrocities, fail to do so ...

I say with respect that though I disagree with your findings of guilt, it is easy for me to see how the absence of the 'contextual framework' in which this case was put together by the Prosecution seemingly contributed to your findings. Sadly I am saddled with those findings today as you consider what sentence to impose.

A starting point for the 'contextual framework' to which I am referring is the issue of money--the purchasing of witnesses' evidence with money. Money played a corrupting, influential, significant and dominant role in this trial. Money in this case, cumulatively prejudiced my rights and interests in an irreparable way. The Prosecution received millions of dollars from the US government outside of the official funding process to the Court administration. The Prosecution has never fully accounted for how those monies were spent ... who received how much, and for what purpose or purposes. Witnesses were paid, coerced, and in many cases threatened with prosecution if they did not cooperate, only to extract statements and/or confessions.

Families were rewarded with thousands of dollars to cover costs of children, school fees, transportation, food, clothing, medical bills and given cash allowances for protected and non-protected witnesses in a country where income is less than a dollar a day. The question then is, what was the prosecution buying? ...

A more important point for the 'contextual framework' to which I am referring is the role politics played. When regime change in Liberia became a policy of the US government, George W. Bush in May zoo' signed a second of two Executive Orders, #13213 (Defence Exhibit D-31o) in which it was stated:

'The government of Liberia's complicity in the RUF's illicit trade in diamonds and its other forms of support for the RUF are direct challenges to United States foreign policy objectives in the region as well as to the rule-based international order that is critical to the peace and prosperity of the United States. Therefore 1 find these actions by the government of Liberia contribute to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States described in Executive Order 13194 with respect to which the president declared a national emergency. …