University of Pittsburgh
February 11, 2011

“Why doesn’t the Special Court for Sierra Leone learn from the lessons of history in The Hague trial of former Liberian President Charles G. Taylor?” Asks Pitt International Criminal Law Professor Charles Jalloh

Jalloh, who played a crucial role in the opening of the Taylor trial on June 4, 2007, and has firsthand knowledge of this case, is available for interviews
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Earlier this week in the ongoing trial in the Special Court for Sierra Leone at The Hague of former Liberian President Charles G. Taylor, Taylor’s lead defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths, a respected British barrister, walked out of court in protest of the Trial Chamber’s majority decision to refuse service of the final defense brief, which was filed 20 calendar days later than the court had ordered. Taylor is accused of fomenting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international law during Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s. 

University of Pittsburgh international criminal law professor Charles Jalloh, who was a participant during the opening of the Taylor trial on June 4, 2007, says that the Special Court has failed to learn the lessons of history and, indeed, has preferred to ignore them, because when Taylor and his then-defense attorney boycotted the proceedings more than three-and-a-half years ago, it added six months to the trial. 

“Now that Taylor and Griffiths have boycotted the proceedings, with counsel claiming that his participation in the closing of the trial would be nothing more than a ‘farce,’ the question now is: Who must pay—the accused and/or his lawyer, the judges, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the victims of Taylor’s alleged crimes in Sierra Leone, or the international community, including, in particular, the United States, a staunch financial supporter of the tribunal?” asks Jalloh. 

“What will happen next?” Jalloh continues. “Will the Taylor trial, which in the last three years was the model international trial, be derailed because the Chamber refused to receive the defense’s final brief? The Taylor defense has appealed that decision. Will the Special Court for Sierra Leone Appeals Chamber reverse the trial judges? How long will that take? Would it not have been wise to give Taylor the one-month delay he requested? Griffiths has threatened to withdraw from the case. Will the judges accept his withdrawal from the trial at this last minute or cite him for contempt for failure to follow court orders?” 

Jalloh, who is available to answer these and many other questions, is a recognized authority in criminal law, international criminal law, and public international law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. 

Educated at the University of Guelph and McGill and Oxford universities, Jalloh has served as a legal counsel in the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Section in the Canadian Department of Justice. He was also the legal advisor to the Office of the Principal Defender at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he played a crucial role during the opening of the Taylor case on June 4, 2007, when Taylor fired his lawyer. The Court appointed Jalloh as the Duty Counsel to assist the accused former Liberian leader, who claimed he would represent himself but boycotted the proceedings. Jalloh, who later convinced Taylor to return to court, was asked to protect the rights and interests of the accused during the prosecution opening statement. He later resigned and joined the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. At the Rwanda Tribunal, he assisted the judges of Trial Chamber I in draft decisions and judgments in famous cases relating to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, including in the case against the alleged architect of the Rwandan genocide, Théoneste Bagosora. 

Jalloh is one of the leading commentators on the Special Court for Sierra Leone as well as the rocky relationship between Africa and the International Criminal Court. His articles have appeared in such journals as The African Journal of International and Comparative Law, American Journal of International Law, Criminal Law Forum, International Criminal Law Review, and Michigan Journal of International Law. He is the editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Legal Studies and an invited advisory board member of the War Crimes Committee of the International Bar Association.