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War Crimes Court Rejects Taylor Acquittal Bid

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4 May 09 | BBC and AFP

War crimes judges have rejected a request to acquit Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor on charges of crimes against humanity.

Mr Taylor’s defence team argued that there was not enough evidence for the trial to proceed.

The decision by the Special Court for Sierra Leone at The Hague means that Mr Taylor, who has pleaded not guilty, must now present his defence.

Tens of thousands of people died in Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war.

“The prosecution has produced evidence capable of supporting a conviction of the accused, ” the presiding judge told the court as he dismissed the defence’s request.

It is not unusual for a defence team to lodge a request for dismissal at this stage in an international tribunal’s proceedings, analysts say.

The judge also stressed that the decision does not mean that the tribunal will convict Mr Taylor.

The trial is scheduled to continue on 29 June. >>>

Charges

Taylor is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his support of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) guerrillas in neighbouring Sierra Leone’s 1991-2001 civil war.

There was evidence on which a court may eventually find that Taylor had been involved in a campaign to terrorise the civilian population of Sierra Leone, during which civilians were killed, raped and mutilated, the judge said.

The 61-year-old has been on trial in The Hague since January 2008 following his arrest in Nigeria and his subsequent handover to the tribunal. He had gone into exile in 2003 in a deal ending Liberia’s civil war.

Evidence showed that he provided arms, ammunition and manpower to the RUF, that he provided moral encouragement and military advice, and that he “facilitated the export of diamonds in exchange of arms,” said Lussick in Monday’s ruling.

About 120,000 people were killed in Sierra Leone’s conflict, with rebels mutilating thousands more — cutting off arms, legs, ears or noses.

Taylor is accused of arming, training and controlling RUF rebels, blamed for many of the mutilations, and of being involved in the “blood diamonds” trade….

“The Trial Chamber is further satisfied that during the campaign to terrorize the civilian population, civilians were killed, raped, forced into sexual slavery, subjected to physical violence including amputations and mutilations and were abducted and forced into labour,” the judge found.

“The Trial chamber is similarly satisfied that children participated actively in hostilities and that civilian property was pillaged.

“Taken together, the trial chamber finds that there is evidence on which it could find that the accused and others shared a common purpose to take part in a campaign to terrorize the civilian population of the Republic of Sierra Leone.”

In January, the 91st and final prosecution witness in Taylor’s trial told judges how he had pleaded with rebels to cut off his remaining hand so they would spare his toddler son….

Taylor’s lawyers have previously indicated that he is likely to be the first witness to take the stand for the defence.

Chief prosecutor Stephen Rapp has said he expected the defence case to conclude by the end of the year.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone, which sits in The Hague, was established in 2002 through an agreement between the United Nations and the Sierra Leonean government.

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Written by Editors

4 May 2009 at 2:26 pm

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