Courtenay Griffiths QC, the new lead counsel for former Liberia President Charles Taylor, has appealed for a fair trial of his client.
Talking to journalists over the weekend at the British Council in Freetown, Mr Griffiths said since their appointment on July 17 they decided that before they step to the Trial Chamber, they would first come to Africa to assess the court’s purpose on the peoples in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
“We therefore thought it imperative that before we set foot in that court we should first do research in West Africa so that we can assess the issue on the ground and also what impact the Special Court has on the lives of the people who gave rise to its inception,” the counsel said.
Courtenay Griffiths explained that ever since the inception of the court, there had been certain comments made by prosecutors, including David Crane Desmond da Silva QC and also Stephen Rapp, which he believed would not help the cause of his client.
He noted that during their visit to Liberia they realized that there were concerns on whether Charles Taylor would receive a fair trial at the Special Court as Desmond da Silva allegedly branded the ex-president as “African’s Hitler.”
As the trial is taking place in The Hague, which is thousands miles away from where the crimes were committed, the lawyer maintained that the people in West Africa should bear in mind the purpose for which the court was formed as “it is to enshrine ideas of the rule of law into West African societies.”
The defence counsel stressed that they were in Sierra Leone to encourage Sierra Leoneans who had a role to play for an effective and fair trial of his client.
“You are best qualified, given your experiences to be his jurors to see the trial of his crime as he is being tried thousands of miles away in The Hague. And we are appealing that you monitor that trial closely here because of its direct impact on your lives,” he stated.
Courtenay Griffiths QC urged Sierra Leoneans that, “you can assist us in the search for the truth about the causes of this conflict. You can provide evidence to counter that of the prosecutor’s. Despite the distant location of the trial, I therefore invite any Sierra Leonean with information regarding the defence of the ex- President Charles Taylor to come forward and contact the defence.”