[JURIST] The prosecution warned the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website; JURIST news archive] Monday that the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor [case materials; JURIST news archive] at The Hague could take four years to complete due to the extensive list of defense witnesses. Taylor is charged with 11 counts [indictment, PDF] of crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Conventions [materials], and other violations of international humanitarian law, to which he pleaded not guilty. Taylor's defense is set to open their case [AP report] on July 13, with Taylor taking the stand in his our defense on July 14. Defense counsel defended the list of 256 witnesses by pointing that the prosecution had also named more than 200 witnesses, and that it did not intend to call all of them.
Last week, Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [official website] urged that several one-time military and political leaders, including Taylor, be prosecuted [JURIST report] in a special Liberian court for war crimes. Taylor, who is the commission's top target, could be prosecuted by the commission if he is released [JURIST report] due to a lack of funds to continue the proceedings at the SCSL. In February, officials announced [JURIST report] that they expected the court to render a verdict by 2010, despite the SCSL's ongoing financial troubles. After complaints of prejudice in 2007, the SCSL increased [JURIST reports] Taylor's defense funding to $100,000 a month. Taylor claims to be indigent, but, in June 2007, a five-member UN investigatory panel found [JURIST report] that he retains control over millions of dollars hidden in African banks.