Playing the Race Card at War Crimes Trial

The lawyer for the African despot accused of financing rape and pillage with stolen diamonds, has blasted the War Crimes Tribunal where his client stands trial as "racist," and a tool of American foreign policy.

"International criminal justice as currently conceived is about those lesser breeds without the law. It is a civilizing process you see," Courtenay Griffiths, lead Counsel for former Liberian President Charles Taylor facetiously told ABC News last week in the lead-up to the direct examination of his client which resumed Monday.

Taylor is being tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which receives a third of its funding from the U.S., and is charged with masterminding the atrocities, such as mass rape and amputation of civilians, in Sierra Leone (which shares a border with Liberia) in order to take advantage of the country's vast natural resources, including diamonds.

The U.S. has given $69.4 million for the Special Court for Sierra Leone since 2002, according to the United Nations, which includes the trials of Sierra Leonean rebel leaders who carried out atrocities. The UN cannot say exactly what percentage of that has gone to the Taylor trial, but it comes to millions of dollars each year. Griffiths asserted that this funding has influenced a predetermined conviction because America does not want that money to have gone to waste.

"In a way the court has been set up with a conviction in mind," said Griffiths.

Over the course of the almost two-year long trial, Taylor has grabbed headlines by firing his first attorney and converting to Judaism, such that there is never a dull moment at The Hague's International Criminal Court where the trial is taking place. United Nations officials decided that for security reasons it would be safer to try Taylor there than in Sierra Leone where the atrocities occurred.

Violence in Sierra Leone

Prosecutors have accused Taylor, who served as Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003, of ordering his subordinates to murder and mutilate civilians, cut off their limbs, use women and girls as sex slaves, abduct adults and children, and force them to perform labor or become fighters to further his economic and political ambitions in the region. Taylor has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

"The way in which Taylor has been portrayed as a 'cannibalistic savage' is typical bearing in mind historical notions of many in the West," said Griffiths.

Griffiths said that international criminal justice, which includes both the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the ICC (which does not receive any funding from the US) is racist and geared towards "civilizing" Africans. He said that neither former President George Bush nor former British Prime Minister Tony Blair would ever be put on trial despite their involvement in foreign wars, which is testimony to the racist element of the court: "It's not by some coincidence that every single defendant currently facing trial before the ICC is from where? Surprise, surprise-- Africa."

The ICC is currently investigating atrocities in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Darfur.

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