Closing arguments in Charles Taylor warcrimes trial

2011-02-08 07:26

Charles Taylor’s warcrimes trial enters its final phase today with the prosecutor’s oral closing arguments on the Liberian ex-president’s alleged warmongering in Sierra Leone.

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis and her team will present arguments to the Special Court for Sierra Leone that Taylor armed rebels who staged one of the most brutal conflicts in modern times, in exchange for illegally mined diamonds.

“Charles Taylor created, armed, supported and controlled the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in a 10-year campaign of terror” that claimed some 120 000 lives until 2001, states the prosecution’s final trial brief – a summary of three years of testimony led in the first-ever international trial of an African head of state.

Thousands of civilians had limbs severed in the civil war which Taylor started “by sending ammunition, weapons and manpower to the RUF and its allies”, according to the prosecution.

“The crimes suffered by the people of Sierra Leone would not have occurred but for Taylor’s supervision and support for the RUF.”

Taylor (62) received “mayonnaise jars” of so-called blood diamonds from the RUF, a handful of which he presented to supermodel Naomi Campbell at a charity dinner in South Africa in 1997, according to testimony before the court.

Lawyers for Taylor, who has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, will present their closing arguments tomorrow, followed by two hours of rebuttal for each side on Friday.

The judges will then retire to consider their judgment, expected in mid-2011.

The trial started in earnest in January 2008 in The Hague for fear that Taylor’s presence in Sierra Leone, where the tribunal is based, could destabilise the region.

The court has heard evidence from 94 prosecution witnesses and 21 for the defence, including Taylor himself.

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