Ex-Liberian President Taylor Requests New Lawyer Amid Prison Ill-Treatment Claims


Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]

London – The Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone has responded favorably to former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor’s request for a new attorney. This coming amid reports that the former President has alleged ill-treatment while behind prison walls.

Former President Taylor, who is currently serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes in a prison in the British city of Durham, reportedly upset prison authorities on the eve of the 2017 presidential elections when he placed a phone call to supporters of his National Patriotic Party igniting fears that the call was a last-ditch appeal to his base and an indirect interference in the presidential elections.

Mr. Taylor was reportedly placed in solitary confinement in the aftermath of the call after complaints by the RSCSL and international human rights organizations.

In a decision last Friday, May 18, 2018, Attorney Ibrahim Sorie Yillah, a Principal Defender at the RSCSL decided that the court has consented to the former Liberian President’s request to have Gambian Lawyer Essa Faal Faal, serve as his attorney.

Lawyer Consents to Representation

In a ruling Friday, the court decided:

“Considering the Statue of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone and in particular Article 23 thereof; Considering the Rules of the Procedure and Evidences as adopted by the Plenary meeting of the Residual Special Court as amended on the 2nd December 2017; Considering the Directive of the Assignment of the Counsel as adopted by the registrar on the 1st October 2003 and n particular Article 13 thereof; Considering that Mr. Charles Ghangay Taylor, a Special Court for Sierra Leone convict is presently serving his jail term in HMP Frankland Prison, Durham in the United Kingdom pursuant to an Order of the Special Court for Sierra Leone dated 4th October 2013; Considering that Charles Ghankay Taylor has informed the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone of his desire to appoint one Counsel of his choice namely Mr. Essa M. Faal from The Gambia; Considering that Mr. Faal has consented to represent Mr. Charles Taylor pro bono by virtue of an agreement by virtue of an agreement between Mr. Taylor and the within named counsel to which the Residual Special Court is not a party;

Considering that the principal defender of Residual Special Court may assign counsel in the interest of justice to represent a convict; Hereby directs the assignment of Mr. Essa M. Faal as  Counsel to Mr. Charles Ghankay Taylor as of the 17th of May 2018.

Mr. Faal, a Defence Counsel at the International Criminal Court and Senior Partner at Faal and Co, previously worked for the Office of the Prosecutor regarding cases in Darfur, Sudan and rose to become the senior trial lawyer for those cases by November 1, 2007.

Attorney Faal has expertise in international law, litigation and international human rights law. He has also worked as Prosecutor in East Timor where he prosecuted cases from ordinary to serious, international crimes, as well as provided training and mentoring to local prosecutors.

In 2003, Faal became the Acting Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes of East Timor (a position he held for six months) and later become the Chief of Prosecution for Serious Crimes.

He has also worked as First Secretary (Legal Affairs) and then as Counselor and Head of Chancery for the Permanent Mission of The Gambia to the United Nations and as State Counsel for the Attorney General’s Chambers in Gambia, working in both litigation and legal drafting. Essa holds a LLB (Hons) from Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) and a LL.M degree in Legislative Drafting and Public Law from the University of the West Indies. Lawyer Logan Hambrick She was based in Freetown, after graduating from The George Washington University Law School with a focus on international human rights law. She has also served as assistant counsel throughout the confirmation of charges phase, and during the pre-trial phase of proceedings before the ICC on behalf of Sang.

Phone call may have triggered Attention

While it is unclear why Mr. Taylor made an appeal for new representation, family sources tell FrontPageAfrica that things have not been going well for the former President, particularly after he spoke to his supporters last year.

Prison guidelines state prisoners should not communicate any material which would create a threat or risk of violence or physical harm to any person; or endanger public safety.

On the call, Mr. Taylor who is serving a 50-year sentence for supporting rebels who committed atrocities in Sierra Leone, railed against former allies who turned against him and assures supporters that he has never abandoned them. The former president advised his supporters to avoid people who would betray his party, saying: “Go back to the base and everything will be fine”. He added: “I’m in a cell but I’m not in prison because my mind cannot be in prison,” and describes himself as a “sacrificial lamb”

Mr. Taylor was convicted in 2012 of 11 counts of war crimes, slavery, rape, recruiting child soldiers and aiding and abetting the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war, in which some 50,000 people died.

The former Liberian leader was found to have supplied weapons to the RUF in exchange for so-called blood diamonds. The rebels were notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians to terrorize the population.

The UN, which convened a Special Court on Sierra Leone, issued an appeal for a country to host him after his conviction and the UK volunteered.

An act of parliament was passed to allow for Taylor to serve his sentence in the UK, at the cost of the British government.

The former Liberian President has consistently protested his imprisonment in Britain and has had an appeal to serve his prison term in Rwanda denied.

RSCSL Previously Denied Solitary Claims

In March 2015, the RSCSL Trial Chamber denied in its entirety a motion by Mr. Taylor requesting that the RSCSL terminate the enforcement of his sentence in the UK and transfer him to Rwanda to serve the remainder of his 50-year prison sentence.

A source at the RSCSL told FrontPageAfrica at the weekend that they are unaware of any ill-treatment toward the former president.

Said the source: “From the 2015 decision denying his request to be transferred to Rwanda I understand that he is not being held in the general prison population because he expressed concerns about his safety.”

The source referenced a January 2015 RSCSL ruling in which the judges found that “Taylor is not being held in conditions of sensory or relative isolation and no inhuman or degrading treatment has been established and the conditions of his imprisonment accord to international standards.”

The ruling adds: “The prosecutor submits that Taylor’s argument regarding solitary confinement do not support his request for relief since the International Tribunal for Rwanda decisions he relies on centers around the concern that referral to Rwanda for trail could or would result in life sentences in isolation, “an exceptional measure which, if applied must be both necessary and proportionate and incorporate certain minimum safeguards”.

The prosecutor cited ECtHR case-law indicating that solitary confinement cannot be imposed on a prisoner indefinitely but argued that Taylor has not shown that the measures imposed on him amount to solitary confinement or that those measures are intended to be indefinite. “The Prosecutor submits that the basic principles for the Treatment of prisoners do not set out an absolute prohibition on solitary confinement but rather indicate that efforts should be undertaken which address abolition of it as a punishment. Taylor has not shown that he has been placed in solitary confinement as a punishment, or that the conditions imposed for his safety amount to solitary confinement.”

One source added that it may be that reports of President Taylor’s complaints in his 2015 motion are being resurrected or perhaps a new complaint may be surfacing.

In that ruling, the former president’s lawyers argued: “Taylor wishes to remain in the Health Care Unit but at the same time complains that it causes his unnecessary segregation, which is not likely to change. He contends that the only solution for this is his transfer to Rwanda.”