The gruesome trial of the former Liberian president, who witnesses say gave orders to rape, mutilate, and amputate his enemies, will continue, as judges upheld the prosecution's case today.
Judges at the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor denied the defense's motion for acquittal "in its entirety," saying that there is enough evidence that Taylor was directly involved in the atrocities carried out against civilians during Sierra Leone's brutal civil war to continue the trial.
The judges held that "during the campaign to terrorize the civilian population civilians were killed, raped, forced into sexual slavery, subjected to physical violence including amputations and mutilation, and were abducted and forced to labor" and "that children participated actively."
Taylor, who served as Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003, is charged by the Special Court for Sierra Leone with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone during the country's roughly 10-year conflict that officially ended in 2002.
The case is being tried in The Hague instead of in Sierra Leone to reduce chances of sparking unrest in the West African state or in neighboring Liberia.
Prosecutors have accused Taylor of murdering and mutilating civilians, including cutting off their limbs, using women and girls as sex slaves, abducting adults and children, and forcing them to perform forced labor or become fighters to further his economic and political ambitions in the region.
Stephen Rapp, lead prosecutor on the case, said he is "pleased that the Trial Chamber has ruled that Charles Taylor must answer each and every one of the eleven counts of our indictment."
Human rights activists and Sierra Leone experts have said that Taylor was directly involved in the atrocities that occurred in Sierra Leone.
"All evidence points to his direct involvement. There are thousands of witnesses," said Ian Smillie, research director for the nonprofit research organization Partnership Africa Canada. Smillie was an expert witness in Taylor's trial who testified that Taylor plundered millions of dollars in blood diamonds (diamonds exchanged for arms) in order to fund his militias.
Eating the Flesh of Captured Enemies and U.N. Soldiers
Taylor, the first former African head of state to appear before an international war crimes tribunal, has denied all of the charges against him.
Taylor was arrested in March 2006 and transferred to The Hague in June 2006. Over 90 witnesses testified on behalf of the Prosecution before a three-judge Trial Chamber.
In March 2008 a former militia commander testified that Taylor ordered his militias to eat the flesh of captured enemies and U.N. soldiers. "[We] throw your head away, your intestines, we take it and put it in a pot and cook it and eat it," explained Joseph "Zigzag" Marzah, who claimed to be one of Taylor's inner circle and ate the organs of enemies together with Taylor.
Taylor's lead counsel, Courtenay Griffiths Q.C., told ABC News that Marzah's testimony lacked credibility. "Marzah repeatedly left the room to send and receive text messages on his mobile phone during the testimony," said Griffiths.
The defense will begin presentation of its case on June 29, when Taylor himself will likely take the stand.