Former Liberian president Charles Taylor began testifying at his trial Tues 14th July before the special court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.
Despite the importance placed on the trial for the victims of the conflict in Sierra Leone, amnesty international (AI) said it is concerned that many Sierra Leoneans are unaware about it and are not following the court proceedings.
The hall was empty at the special court in Freetown, where the proceedings from The Hague are being shown by video link. ‘People seem unaware of what is happening,’ said Tania Bernath of AI, currently in the country.
AI said it believes that current efforts to inform Sierra Leoneans about the trial are insufficient. The organization said that more needs to be done to ensure that the victims of the conflict in the country receive information that is both easily accessible and relevant to them, including to those living in rural areas.
Taylor faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that he is alleged to have committed in Sierra Leone.
His trial moved to The Hague in Jan ‘08 due to fears that it would create instability in West Africa sub-region.
His trial resumed on Mon 13th July, following the completion of the prosecution case in Feb ‘09.
Taylor’s defence is expected to last several months. It is the first time an African head of state has been prosecuted before an international criminal court for crimes committed against Africans.
The lead defence council, Courtney Griffith opened the day by providing an overview of the defence strategy denying Charles Taylor’s involvement in the crimes alleged, including killings, mutilations, sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers. His defence follows the end of the prosecution’s case which saw evidence from 91 prosecution witnesses.