In what appears to be dissatisfaction over the recent guilty verdict pronounced against him by an International Court sitting in The Hague over allegation of war crimes, former Liberian leader, Mr. Charles Taylor has made an appeal as well engaged a new defense counsel to represent him during the appeal.
This was made known by a Special Court for Sierra Leone which announced a change in the composition of Charles Taylor's defense team in order to handle the former Liberian president's appeal.
For the purposes of his appeal, Mr. Taylor will now be represented by Mr. Morris Anyah, who has served as co-defense counsel throughout the trial phase of the case.
It would be recalled that on April 26, judges in The Hague convicted Mr. Taylor of aiding and abetting 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone from November 30, 1996 to January 18, 2002.
The court stated that Charles Taylor who was on trial on 11 charges helped rebels in Sierre Leone with the preparation and execution of crimes by helping to “design” their strategy.
"He was on trial on 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment and the recruitment and use of child soldiers" the court stated.
War crimes “resulted directly from (these) plans” but he did not command the execution or instigate them, said Richard Lussick, a UN judge during the proceeding.
Taylor’s practical assistance, including trade in blood diamonds and moral support had substantial impact on the commission of war crimes and “he knew it well", the UN court judged.
The charges relate to Mr. Taylor's alleged support for two rebel groups – the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and the Revolutionary United Front – during Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war.
The Taylor trial opened on 4 June 2007 in The Hague. It was adjourned immediately after the prosecution's opening statement when Mr. Taylor dismissed his defence team and requested new representation.
Witness testimony commenced on 7 January 2008, and ended on 12 November 2010. Closing arguments took place in February and March 2011.
The Court heard live testimony from 94 prosecution witnesses, and received written statements from four additional witnesses. The defence presented 21 witnesses, with Mr. Taylor testifying in his defence.
The SCSL was set up jointly by the Sierra Leonean Government and the UN in 2002, with the mandate of trying those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and national law committed on Sierra Leonean territory since the end of November 1996.
Although the SCSL is headquartered in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor's trial took place in a chamber of the Court sitting in The Hague for security reasons.
The Liberian warlord's sentencing will take place on May 16, 2012.