- Title: NETHERLANDS: Liberia's former ruler Charles Taylor on trial at the Hague
- Date: 14th July 2009
- Summary: THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS (JULY 13, 2009) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF THE COURTHOUSE ENTRANCE TO THE ICC (PROVIDING FACILITIES FOR SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE (SCSL))
- Embargoed: 29th July 2009 13:00
- Location: Netherlands
- Country: Netherlands
- Reuters ID: LVA9TUDVN4664DXGTT7D4J0FSKFI
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: The defence for Liberia's former President Charles Taylor, on trial for war crimes, argued on Monday (July 13) he was trying to broker peace rather than foment violence during the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone.
"We are here to defend a man who we say is innocent of these charges," Taylor's defence lawyer Courtenay Griffiths told the Special Court for Sierra Leone set up by the Hague's International Criminal Court (ICC).
Taylor, 61, was the defence's first witness as it began arguments on Monday and is expected to take the stand for several weeks beginning on Tuesday (July 14).
He has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Taylor is charged with instigating murder, rape, mutilation, conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery during the intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in which more than 250,000 people were killed.
Defence lawyers have said Taylor should be acquitted because there was no evidence he planned or instigated atrocities in Sierra Leone, but judges rejected that last month.
"It must equally be recognised that this case has been played out over at least six years by the prosecution in the court of public opinion world wide," Taylor's defence lawyer Griffiths added.
Prosecutors say he directed the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in a campaign of terror against civilians. The prosecution closed its case in February.
Taylor has been on trial in the Hague since June 2007 at facilities provided by the ICC. Prosecutors say he sought to control Sierra Leone's diamond mines and destabilise its government to boost his regional influence.
The court is headquartered in Freetown, but the trial is taking place in the Netherlands due to concerns it may trigger violence in Sierra Leone.
Even among Africa's horrific wars, the fighting in Sierra Leone stood out for its exceptional brutality -- casual murder, mass rapes, the hacking of limbs from civilians and the press ganging of child soldiers as young as eight.
The UN Special Court for Sierra Leone was established in January 2002 through an agreement between Sierra Leone's government and the UN.
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