The New Dawn (Monrovia)

Liberia: Tragedy Hits Taylor's Trial

At the time Liberians and the world over are awaiting the verdict in the prolonged trial of ex-President Charles Taylor, a tragedy has hit the court as one of its instrumental jurists has been reported dead, the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone has announced.

Judge Antonio Cassese reportedly dies on Friday October 21, 2011, a statement issued by the Special Court's President Jon M. Kamanda said.

"We are saddened to learn of the death on Friday 21 October 2011, of Judge Antonio Cassese, an eminent international jurist and, until recently, President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon," the statement said.

The Sierra Leone Special Court President listed among the many achievements in Judge Cassese's distinguished career as his role as an Independent Expert charged with looking at the challenges faced by the Special Court.

In his December 2006 report, Judge Cassese was said to have raised for the first time, the importance of preparing a Completion Strategy, including a consideration of the Special Court's Legacy, and the need for a Residual Mechanism, something the court is expected to transition into.

The death of Judge Cassese comes amidst a reported delay in the Taylor's verdict since the trial came to an historic end in March this year.

This was after three-and-a-half years of trial, the Prosecution and Defense both addressed Trial Chamber II for the final time in March. The parties referred to the passion, intensity, and emotions that became hallmarks of this trial, but thanked everyone involved for their hard work and dedication over the years.

The judges have received all of the evidence tendered by the parties--amounting to testimony from 115 witnesses and 1097 exhibits. Having heard all of the parties' assertions and arguments about whether this evidence indicates Taylor's guilt or innocence, the judges had since retired to deliberate and come to a final judgment on whether Charles Taylor is guilty of eleven counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law.

Verdict was expected in months or before the end of the year, but it has been 8 months since and not a specific date has been given. Although unconfirmed reports say court officials are awaiting the end of polls here to proceed with the issuance of final verdict in the trial.

The opposition Congress for Democratic Change or CDC Winston Tubman told Congress for Democratic Change or CDC Standard Bearer Cllr. Winston Tubman told the British Independent Newspaper recently that under his Presidency, he would allow ex-President Charles Taylor back to Liberia, if not convicted by the UN-backed Special Court of Sierra Leone, a comment which have received sharp criticisms from two influential US Congressmen, who have warned that a return of Taylor to Liberia would have far-reaching consequences, including cutting support and seriously undermine relations between the United States and Liberia.

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