Charles Taylor’s Lawyers Take Liberian Government, UN Chief Investigator to Court

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 17, 2004

What is billed by a bulk of the suffering Liberians at home as an “unpopular and losing” legal battle in this tiny West African State of Liberia has taken root, with lawyers representing the interest of the deposed and exiled Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, filing a legal lawsuit against the Gyude Bryant led National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) and Mr. Alan W. white, Chief Investigator of the United Nations backed Special War Crimes Court for Sierra Leone.

While the legal action taken by Taylor’s lawyers against the Liberian Government for allowing the UN Special court to conduct a lawful search of Taylor’s residences in Liberia did not come as a surprise, many legal experts see the lawsuit as an attempt to challenge the authority of the current government and to gauge Mr. Taylor’s popularity among his countrymen (devastated by his 14-year destructive and bloody civil war).

Cllr. Richard Flomo, a one time senator and Minister of Internal Affairs under the Taylor regime, is leading the team that filed the lawsuit against the government and the Special War Crime Court.

Cllr. Flomo hails from Bong county, a former stronghold of the disbanded Charles Taylor's rebel group-the National Patriotic front of Liberia (NPFL).

Mr. Taylor used Gbarnga, the administrative seat of Bong County(central Liberia), to perpetrate his devastating and bloody onslaught against the people of Liberia, after launching the civil war in 1989 at the Liberian border town of Butuo in Nimba county, where he received massive support from the residents of that county to perpetrate his war efforts in an attempt to seize power.

On March 12, Cllr. Flomo on behalf of Mr. Taylor filed the lawsuit against the Liberian Government at the nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Liberia, for granting a Writ of search Warrant to the War Crimes Court for Sierra Leone to search Taylor’s residences.

Cllr. Flomo told journalists in Monrovia that they took the legal action because the Justice Ministry’s action to issue the Writ of Search Warrant violates the rights of the former president and laws of Liberia, arguing that the war crimes tribunal doesn't have jurisdiction to charge Taylor since he was a head of state at the time of his alleged crimes.

He said it is unlawful for the court in Sierra Leone to search and seize documents from the residences of Mr. Taylor in his absence and added that Mr. Taylor was charged without evidence to prosecute him.

In a communication dated 1 March 2004 to Mr. Edward K. Goba, deputy Minister for Administration and safety of the Ministry of Justice, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court, among other things, indicated that on 6 February 2004, Dr. Alan W. white, chief Investigator of the Special Court, hand-delivered to the ministry a certified copy of the indictment and arrest warrant for Mr. Taylor, saying that the Ministry acknowledged receipt of the documents and agreed to support the investigation.

The communication further urged the Ministry that the court request and any evidence obtained in connection with the search be kept confidential and filed under seal in order to protect the integrity of the evidence and anonymity of individuals associated with the evidence, whose safety may be compromised should their identity be published.

According to Article 1 of the Statute of the Special Court, the court is mandated to “prosecute persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30, November 1996.”

The crimes within the jurisdiction of the UN back Special Court include Crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Convention. While quoting Article 6 (1) of the Statute, the Court said "A person who planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of a crime referred to in articles 2-4 of the present Statute shall be individually responsible for the crime".

According to the documents, “The official position of any accused person, whether as Head of State or Government or as a responsible Government official, shall not relieve such person of criminal responsibility nor mitigate punishment.”