- The Chief Prosecutor of the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), Stephen Rapp, on Thursday stressed the "historic" importance of the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in signalling an end to impunity, even at the highest level.
Taylor is facing 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. His counts include mass murder, mutilations, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldier. All the counts are connected to his role in the more than a decade-long civil war in the neighbouring Sierra Leone.
He has maintained his innocence to all the charges against him.
But Rapp told a news briefings in New Youth that the arrest and transfer of the former President "after he had been permitted to go into what was anticipated to be a safe and comfortable exile was precedent shattering in several respects.
"I think it has awakened many in the world to the possibility that individuals who might commit or be alleged to have commit similar crimes will in the end face a day of justice."
He described the case as "one of historic importance in signalling an end to impunity of individuals, even at the highest level."
Rapp said those involved in the process have been left with the challenge of making sure that Taylor is tried "expeditiously."
In 2006, the Security Council authorized the transfer of Taylor to The Hague for prosecution for reasons of security and expediency. His case remains under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Prosecutor Rapp said given the "excellent progress" of the trial, the case could be concluded between 12 and 18 months.
The trial resumed on Monday, January 7.
In a news conference held in Freetown, Mr Rapp said more than seventy Crime- Based Witnesses will testify in the entire trial. Eight expert witnesses, including one with knowledge of the diamond industry are set to testify on behalf of the Prosecution.
Taylor stands accused for crimes against humanity and violations of International Humanitarian Law in relation to his said involvement in the civil war in Sierra Leone which ended some six years ago.
The trial, which resumed on 7 January 2008, first started in June 2007 but was delayed by Taylor’s refusal to appear in court and squabbles over his representation.
Judges are expected to deliver judgment of the trial in 2010 and upon conviction, Taylor will serve his sentence in the United Kingdom.
While some Sierra Leoneans see the trial as a victory against impunity, others argue that millions of dollars spent on the case was enough to console the victims of one of the most brutal civil wars which left many people killed, amputated and raped.
Taylor's cohorts condemned the trial, saying it is part of an international conspiracy perpetrated against the former rebel-turned-president.
His friends and family members held church services for his acquittal at the First Baptist Church in the suburb of Monrovia, praying for Taylor's acquittal.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.