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Taylor boycotts opening arguments in war crimes trial

[JURIST] Former Liberian President Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] boycotted the opening of judicial proceedings against him Monday at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website], saying in a letter to the court that his confidence in the SCSL's "ability to dispense justice" was "misplaced" because he was prevented from seeing his preferred lawyer and that his single court-appointed defense lawyer was outnumbered by the court's prosecution team. Taylor's assigned lawyer, Karim Khan, told the court that Taylor has fired him and was seeking to represent himself and left the opening of the trial despite requests from the court that he continue as Taylor's defense lawyer, at least for the first day of trial. Despite Taylor and Khan's absence, the court determined that opening statements would continue.

Taylor's trial will adjourn for three weeks after Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp's opening statement Monday and will resume on June 25. The trial, which is expected to last 18 months, was relocated to The Hague [JURIST report] for security reasons. Last Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [press release; JURIST report] international donors to increase their contributions to the SCSL, echoing a call by Rapp who has warned that the tribunal would be forced to release Taylor if it runs out of resources. Unlike other international criminal tribunals, the Special Court for Sierra Leone relies solely on voluntary contributions.

Taylor has been indicted [amended indictment text, PDF; SCSL materials] on charges of crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers during a bloody civil war in Sierra Leone. AP has more.

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