Lawyers representing the former Liberian president Charles Taylor at his war crimes trial at the Special Court sitting at The Hague, probably have something to smile about.
Following their rejection of protective status given to some of the prosecution witnesses and asking the Court to look at the reasons for keeping them away from the public eye, the Court agreed that TF1-215 did not enjoy protection. But Presiding Judge Theresa Doherty said the call for a review of the protective measures remained arguable. She said: “The Defence have opposed and applied to rescind the purported protective measures for witness TF1-215. The Prosecution submit that the witness is protected by an order of Trial Chamber I of 5 July 2004, entitled “Decision on Prosecution motion for modification of protective measures for witnesses”, which the Prosecution submits applies to 266 witnesses of fact including witness TF1-215.
After careful consideration of that decision and the submissions of counsel, we find nothing in the decision which would entitle witness TF1-215 to any protective measures. In our view, the decision relates solely to those witnesses listed in annexes A and B of the renewed Prosecution motion for protective measures. Witness TF1-215 is not among those witnesses listed in the annexes. Accordingly, the witness will testify in open court”
Instead of bringing TF1-215 in open court, the Prosecution withdrew the witness they said should have testified to facts. Prosecution lawyer Shyamala Alagendra announced a different witness instead.
The issue had brought a heated debate in court on Tuesday, when the prosecution put another secret witness on the stand, which the defence resisted saying he, TF1-215, did not meet the criteria to be hidden from the public.
The ensuing argument between the opposing lawyers dominated proceedings on Tuesday after the previous witness, TF1-143, had left the stand.
In is not uncommon for witnesses to be protected if they so request. Lawyers pressing charges against Mr Taylor say these witnesses fear for their safety and that of their families and would not like to be known while they give evidence.
Defence lawyer, Morris Anyah had argued that the witness should not be given a pseudonym (TF1-215), nor should he give testimony behind camera. He also challenged the distortion of the witness’s voice because he is not a child, a victim of sexual violence, an insider, or expert witness.
Anyah said these categories of witnesses were those covered by protective measures and that TF1-215 did not fit into any of them.
He prevailed on the judges to review the reasons for granting protective status to some witnesses, because, in the argument of the British-trained Ghanaian lawyer, times have changed so much that some of the ten-year old measures did not hold water any longer. The prosecution counter-argued that although TF1-215 was a witness of fact, he did hold security fears.Courtesy BBC World Service Trust and Search for Common Ground