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Charles Taylor fails to appear in opening of war crimes tribunal.

Charles Taylor fails to appear in opening of war crimes tribunal.The former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, boycotted the opening of his war crimes trial before the International Criminal Court at The Hague today, arguing he could not receive a fair trial due to lack of legal counsel.  Taylors court appointed attorney, Karim Khan, walked out of the proceedings claiming Taylor had wanted to act as his own defense attorney.  Taylor was indicted on 11 counts of war crimes in 2003 by a UN backed court in Sierra Leone.  His case was transferred to the ICC out of fears of uprisings in the region in response to his prosecution.

Mr. Taylor allegedly cooperated with commanders from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to gain access to the diamond trade and establish a supporting government in the Liberian capital, Freetown.  He is alleged to have recruited child soldiers, known as the Small Boys Unit, to unseat the regime of former President Samuel K. Doe.  Taylor's National Patriotic Front is alleged to drug children with heroin and other drugs to influence them in to become combatants in the militant groups.   Thousands were murdered, maimed, and raped at the hands of militants.  Civilians were often captured and mutilated by amputating hands and limbs with axes and women were ritualistically raped and forced to become sex slaves.

Mr. Taylor is the first African leader to face war crimes.  The former prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone stated; “It's a time in history of Africa that the leaders … go on notice that they just cannot destroy their own people for whatever purpose.”  Taylor had initially refused to cooperate with the court, claiming it had no jurisdiction over Liberia, despite international recognition of regional appeals for intervention.   He has pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts.

The trial is expected to last between a year to 18 months.




Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors