Michael Kooren/AP
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor

Court’s Low Funds May Mean Freedom for Liberia’s Taylor

February 25, 2009 12:26 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The global financial crisis has taken a toll on the special court trying former Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes during Sierra Leone’s civil war.

Special Court Sees Dwindling Donations

The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is trying war criminals from the country’s 1991–2002 civil war, has seen falling donations and is now saddled with a $5 million budget shortfall.

“With the economic crisis continuing, to get funds is not easy,” Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp told Reuters on Monday. “If we run out, it is now possible the judges will have to release him. That’s our real anxiety.”

Rapp is referring to former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is on trial for 11 counts of crimes against humanity and is charged with rape, enslavement and conscripting child soldiers.

The special court is also expected to hand down a verdict today in the trial of three Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leaders.

Former RUF “Interim Leader” Issa Hassan Sesay, former RUF commander Morris Kallon, and RUF Chief of Security Augustine Gbao are being charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and other human rights violations, including abducting thousands of women to serve as “bush wives” to rebel commanders during the war.

Victims of the 11-year war continue to suffer its effects and are still waiting to receive compensation for human rights violations, according to ReliefWeb. Up to 100,000 individuals, including amputees and others injured in the war, victims of sexual violence, widows and children, are eligible for reparations starting in February. But the government has so far procured only a quarter of the funds needed to run the program.

Background: Charles Taylor on trial

Taylor was charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his alleged part in trading weapons for diamonds with Revolutionary United Front rebels from Sierra Leone. Taylor is accused of terrorizing the civilian population, unlawful killings, sexual violence and physical violence, as well as aiding and abetting the Sierra Leonean rebels by funding them while he was president of Liberia.

Taylor’s trial originally began in June 2007 in the Hague, Netherlands, but was delayed after Taylor fired his attorney and subsequently boycotted the trial. After six months of delays, Taylor’s trial finally resumed on Jan. 7, 2008, with a new attorney for Taylor: British defense lawyer Courteney Griffiths, paid for by the Court because the defendant claims he does not have the means to pay for his defense. Many in Liberia doubt his claim, as it is believed that he earned a lot of money from diamond trades.

As Reuters reports, the civil war in Sierra Leone began in 1991 when the RUF rebels took up arms against former Sierra Leone President Joseph Momoh. The RUF rebels committed human rights abuses including mass rape, unlawful killings, mutilations and the use of child soldiers. A truce was declared in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2002 that disarmament of rebels was complete and the war over. Approximately 50,000 civilians were killed in addition to thousands of rapes and mutilations. The RUF rebels received a great deal of funding from Taylor, who was the Liberian president at the time.

Reference: Video, blog of trial

Related Topic: “US Court Convicts Charles Taylor’s Son of Torture in Liberia”


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