The defense for Liberian warlord Charles Taylor said today the war crimes trial was politically motivated "neocolonialism" and asked why Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi does not face a similar court.
"This was a court, ostensibly and publicly, set up, we are told, to try those who bear the greatest responsibility," Taylor's lead counsel Courtenay Griffiths told the court in his closing arguments. "So why is Colonel Moammar Gadhafi not in the dock?"
Taylor, 63-year-old former President of Liberia, stands accused of acting with or directing African militant groups primarily in Sierra Leone who used child soldiers and committed acts of murder, rape and sexual slavery, among other charges. The defense did not deny the atrocities took place, but Griffiths argued that there was no proof directly linking Taylor to the crimes.
Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian told the court today that Gadhafi was not indicted because there is "less than a tenth of the evidence" connecting Gadhafi to the rebel groups compared to Taylor. Gadhafi is currently under investigation for crimes against humanity for the recent brutal repression of peaceful protestors in Libya.
"Well perhaps there is one thing we can agree on with the defense. We would agree that Charles Taylor is as likely to use terror against civilians as Moammar Gadhafi," Koumjian said. "Of course, a prosecutor has an obligation to only indict those that they can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."
In his argument, Griffiths said there was nothing but circumstantial evidence linking his client to the 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity with which he is charged. Griffiths argued instead that the trial was politically motivated, evidenced by the fact that Gadhafi was not brought to trial, despite allegations he too supported some of the same rebel groups, because of British economic interests in Libya.
"It is to the shame of this prosecution that it has besmirched the lofty ideals of international criminal law by turning this case into a 21st century case of neocolonialism," Griffiths said.
Taylor was directly connected to Gadhafi in this case by a key witness in 2008, former Liberian President Moses Blah. Blah testified that he was among nearly 200 rebels who were recruited by Taylor and sent to Libya for training at a military base near Tripoli before Taylor gained control of Liberia.
There, the men received "full military training" from Libyans, Blah said, including instructions on how to assemble, disassemble and fire an AK-47. Some were trained in the use of surface-to-air missiles. Taylor would often visit the group in Libya to inspect the men and give inspirational speeches, Blah said.
Gadhafi's support for Taylor was well-known at the time, according to a U.S. State Department cable posted on the website Wikileaks.
Griffiths also said that the trial had gone relatively unnoticed until supermodel Naomi Campbell and Hollywood actress Mia Farrow became involved.
Campbell was subpoenaed by the international tribunal following an ABC News report about allegations that Taylor had given her uncut "blood diamonds" on a trip to South Africa.
In August 2010, Campbell took the stand and admitted she received diamonds from men she believed to be representatives from Taylor.
Farrow, who ate breakfast with Campbell the morning after she received the diamonds, testified a few days later to dispute Campbell's previous statement to ABC News that she did not receive any diamonds.
Prosecutors previously alleged that Taylor used the sale of illegal "blood diamonds" to fund the rebel groups he supported.
Once the celebrities completed their testimony, however, the case "returned to obscurity," Griffiths said.
The defense will conclude its closing arguments Thursday before a round of rebuttals Friday.