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Lawyers for ex-Liberia president Taylor seek to reopen war crimes case

Lawyers for former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] requested Tuesday that the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] reopen Taylor's war crimes case in light of new evidence, including a recent report [text, PDF] by the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia. Taylor's lawyers request this report be admitted as evidence in the case [AP report], claiming that the report may show that Taylor was not instrumental in directing mercenaries who committed war crimes in Sierra Leone. The report dedicates about 20 pages to Liberian mercenaries, and Taylor's lawyers contend that the panel's research demonstrates that the mercenaries were acting of their own accord. Taylor's charges [indictment, PDF] include 11 counts of crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Conventions and other violations of international humanitarian law. His trial officially concluded [JURIST report] in March 2011, but no verdict has been returned. The court did not immediately respond to his lawyers' request.

The SCSL heard closing arguments in March 2011. Closing arguments were originally set to begin a month earlier, but were postponed pending an appeals chamber decision to accept the defense's final written brief [JURIST reports]. The trial chamber originally disregarded the brief because it was 20 days late. Taylor has denied the charges [JURIST report] against him, which include murder, rape, sexual slavery and acts of terrorism stemming from from a "campaign to terrorize the civilian population" of Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive]. Taylor's defense lawyers opened their case [JURIST report] in July 2009 and have claimed that he could not have commanded rebel forces in Sierra Leone while acting as the president of Liberia. His trial continued after the court denied his motion for acquittal [JURIST report] in May 2009.

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