The chief defense counsel in the trial of former President Charles Ghankay Taylor, Courteney Griffiths, is calling for adequate time to prepare the defense for his client, as opposed to the speed with which the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, The Netherlands may be anticipating.
In an interview yesterday with Ms. Eva Flomo on her popular Coffee Break of the UNMIL Radio, the learned lawyer who has been practicing for 30 years cautioned that "speed" is not the best companion to justice, noting that error is likely to be made when it is applied.
He indicated that though he is not in the business of disobeying judicial order, proper timing was however required in the transparent adjudication of the trial now being handled by the Court, adding, "I am not looking for indulgence of the Court but adequate timing."
The learned jurisprudent, speaking on behalf of his cracked-team, disclosed that while they have requested that the trial resume in mid-August, allowing them time to prepare their defense that is likely to witness the accused rendered not guilty, they were being forced to resume on June 29.
It can be recalled that over a month ago, the Chief Prosecutor of the War Crimes Court in Sierra Leone, Stephen Rapp, threatened to set Charles Taylor free if funding were not made available to the court, something he placed at over US$5 million, a required funding still plaguing the court.
The nearly five years trial of the former Liberian leader by the War Crimes Court in The Hague, The Netherlands was reported to have been on the verge of declaring the accused free on premises of the global financial crisis still haunting governments and financial institutions, had there not been significant improvement.
At the time of the disclosure by the War Crimes Court Chief Prosecutor, Monrovia grew with down-pour of rain during the early morning hours, something that many described as "shower of blessings." Prior to the disclosure by Mr. Rapp, world leaders and other top financial executives had held meetings in Washington, D.C. with United States President Barack Obama, as well as in London, England, in preliminarily crafting out ways in tackling the global problem that had begun affecting both developed and developing nations, as well as international financial institutions that have over the decades enormously supporting developing and under-developed nations and institutions in achieving socio-economic development.
The scenario becoming a breast-feeding affair in which a hungry infant depends on the mother for feeding, without whom the child may continue to cry and disturb the ears of others in the community, peace-seeking Liberians, including family members of Mr. Taylor who had for many years turned reverent in witnessing the former Liberian leader set free have continued to remain prayerful, with participation in exercises by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that have been characterized by forgiveness of the Liberian people, though with most still facing travel ban imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Unlike previous years when serious controversies evolved over the legitimacy of the trial, although in consonance with international norms, with mainly traditional zoes, chiefs and elders on the local front reportedly feeling denied of using traditional modes that are practiced in both Sierra Leone and Liberia in resolution of matters arising from "what is normal during war," several peace movements, democracy and human rights institutions have however continued to play their roles as means to sensitizing the population on observable norms in maintaining the peace and stability since restored to the respective countries.
Commendable as the traditional leaders have come to be in their local communities, viewed as an adjunct to the very excellent roles being played by the UNSC in relaxing tension among the two friendly governments and peoples, they have not in anyway demonstrated resentments through any form of unhealthy activities but have instead increased cooperation and collaboration through cultural displays meant to gradually transform lives of the population in returning to the healthy exchanges that had obtained prior to the bitter experiences.
The work of the TRC, headed by Counsellor Jerome Verdier, has also immensely contributed to silence over proceedings at the trial of Mr. Taylor in The Hague, with other gruesome acts allegedly committed by some other Liberians who have since pleaded to fellow Liberians for mercy, in the interest of peace and national reconciliation that the commission has since anticipated to evolve from the exercise.
In an interview yesterday, Counsellor Verdier did not mince words at disclosing that the commission will cease to exist as of June, this year with the objective of consolidating and transferring ownership to the Liberian people, following its formal submission of reports to the Government of Liberia.
Currently preoccupied with report writing and salient recommendations based on the truth established from the confessions made by hundreds of Liberians, the TRC Chairman made it distinctly clear that reconciliation of citizens now remains major preoccupation, underscoring that the "blueprint has to be laid by the Commission."
Although not a Jesus Christ who bore the sins of mankind, died and rose from the grave, Counsellor Verdier disclosed that the Commission has however come across what amounts to truth and would be contained in their report to government, based on universal truth.
"We are looking at global truth; root causes of the conflict has been unearthed with individuals telling who, why and how they became involved or became witnesses to the account," he is interpretatively quoted as saying.
He expressed confidence in the report being produced, since it would indeed lay basis for lasting peace and stability in the country. "The end product of the TRC is the property of government and not the commissioners," he noted, once again underscoring the creation of an atmosphere in which reconciliation will take place as primary focus.
While the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INCHR) may not have been fully constituted by government, he is however counting on the ability of that commission to implement whatever recommendation is made in the TRC's report, although with legislations to be made in empowering the former by the National Legislature, he averred that the report will be "objective, realistic an fair."
Amidst the latest development, however, the Mano River Union (MRU) comprising the republics of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Liberia have since begun making frantic strides in keeping the sub-region peaceful and stable, amidst the full propagation of democratic concepts being warmly embraced by its people, with leaders becoming adherents to agreements in not allowing any citizen from member states to use the other as launching pad for subversive activities.
Whilst initial scenarios in that sisterly republic may not have appeared favorable within the sub-region, with the take-over of that country by a military, headed by Captain Musah Camara, latest reports that enabling environment is now being created for the holding of democratic elections in which the military leaders will not be participating becomes an added achievement.
Many attribute the progress to the continuing intervention by ECOWAS in its continuing search for durable peace and stability within the sub-region. It is recalled that the former Liberian leader, Dr. Charles Ghankay Taylor, began inheriting ungrounded charges levied against him during and after the formation of opposing fighting forces against his leadership in Liberia during the mid-1990s.
He, however, resigned the Presidency following several appeals from regional and international leaders, amidst onslaughts on his government by the opposing forces, leaving parts of Monrovia destroyed.
Former President Taylor was hosted in Calabar, Federal Republic of Nigeria by now former President Olusegun Obasanjo, only to be issued writ of arrest months later in that country for extradition to the Republic of Sierra Leone to face hearings before the War Crimes Tribunal in that country.
Mr. Taylor, while en route to Republic of Sierra Leone after been arrested in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, landed at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) handcuffed while in transit, something unprecedented in the history of Liberia, before taken to that sisterly republic.
Now being fairly treated while in the custody of the ICC, statements by defense counsel Griffiths pointing to speedy trial without allowing his team ample time is being viewed in legal corridors as "quite troubling," although with the Government of Liberia having since maintained a neutral posture, yet prepared to witness transparency in the adjudication process.
Meanwhile, defense counsel Griffiths is of the firm conviction that given the speed with which the Court may want to see the trial resume, it brings to bear his own professional judgment, although with no choice but to equally prevail on the court what is normally expected and required in such criminal proceeding that has since been adjudged "more political" than it appears.
Accordingly, therefore, the defense counsel has pointed out that he would be asking the court for more time in the adequate defense of his client, by calling on witnesses who are in abundance, something that equally requires more time to hold consultations.
Defense counsel Griffiths has therefore called on conscientious Liberians to carefully follow the proceedings at the case, in order to be able to determine the "quality of evidence" put forward, since speeding up the process may not be in the interest of the defense.