Magazine article New African

ICC Braveheart Speaks! This Is What Courtenay Griffiths QC, (Pictured above) Who Defended the Former the Former Liberian President Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Said at the ICC Conference Organised by IC Events in London on 18 May 2012

Magazine article New African

ICC Braveheart Speaks! This Is What Courtenay Griffiths QC, (Pictured above) Who Defended the Former the Former Liberian President Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Said at the ICC Conference Organised by IC Events in London on 18 May 2012

Article excerpt

What a lot of people don't realise about me is that I was a newcomer to international criminal law when in June 2007 I was approached to defend Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia. What I came to realise very quickly was that international law is not about law at all; that what it is about is the politics of power and the pursuit of Western interests.

So I want to make six points. I want to be quite provocative because I want to provoke a debate. Like Braveheart, I have come here to pick a fight!

Now, the first point I want to make is this: I have listened with interest to all the useful contributions made today and there is a certain word that has not been mentioned by anybody. That word is "profit", and what I am talking about here is the correlation between Western strategic and economic interests and the use of international criminal law to pursue those interests.

Two examples: Number one is that Charles Taylor, my client, told me that he was playing tennis one day when he received a phone call. He had been negotiating with the US oil company Halliburton about oil concessions off the coast of Liberia. As I am sure you all realise, running around the Gulf of Guinea from Equatorial Guinea and all the way round, is a large offshore oil-bearing strata which Ghana is just beginning to exploit.

Taylor told me that Halliburton was offering him a ridiculous rate, and he wanted to negotiate with the Chinese. The phone call was from a senior officer at Halliburton who told him: "Mr President, unless we can make this deal, we cannot protect you any longer."

Let me give you another example. In all this debate about human rights violations in Darfur, Sudan, one thing has never been publicly acknowledged. Darfur just happens to sit on a sea of oil. A bit of a surprise that! And looking at it from a Western point of view, given [President Omar] El-Bashir's link with the Chinese, you can understand why the West might want for their own economic interests to have an independent Darfur.

So we need to get real here and understand what the real dynamic is, what is taking place at the fundamental level. You do not have to be a Marxist to recognise that economics is always the substructure upon which these superstructures are built. My second point is this, and it is a point touched upon by Dr Phil Clarke this morning: The referral mechanism at the ICC [...] is also a mechanism co get rid of the awkward political opponents.

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Let me give you an example. The Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up to try those who had the greatest responsibility for what occurred in that country.

Hinga Norman, who was the deputy defence minister, was put on trial at that Court, but sadly he died. Now, guess who was the defence minister at that time and effectively Hinga Norman's boss--Presi-dent Ahmad Tejan Kabbah! Now, why would you put the second in command on trial and not the man who bore the greatest responsibility? Why not?

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Apparently, the word on the ground is that David Crane, that deranged, evangelical, former CIA operative who was the first prosecutor of that case, wanted to go against Kabbah but the British government didn't want k to happen.

So [the British government under Tony Blair] parachuted Sir Desmond de Silva in to act as a firewall to prevent Kabbah's prosecution. …

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