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Friday, June 15, 2007

Taylor not indigent defendant: UN investigators
Michael Sung at 9:36 AM ET

[JURIST] A five-member team of UN investigators concluded in a confidential report to the UN Security Council disclosed Thursday by the New York Times that former Liberian President Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] may retain control over large sums of personal assets located in Nigeria and Liberia. Taylor claims he is indigent, and refused to participate in the start of proceedings against him [JURIST] last Monday at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] because he was unable to retain his preferred lawyer. The panel's report says that Taylor obtains approximately $100 million annually from his control of diamond and timber resources, although it could not provide more details concerning the current status of Taylor's assets. The Nigerian government has refused to allow an investigation of Taylor's Nigerian assets, and neither Nigeria or Liberia has frozen Taylor's assets pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1532 [PDF text; backgrounder].

Taylor has also alleged that his single court-appointed defense lawyer, Karim Khan, is unfairly outnumbered by the court's prosecution team. Taylor attempted to fire Khan Monday, although a SCSL spokesperson says Taylor does not have the authority. The SCSL subsequently announced the addition of a second defense lawyer to Taylor's legal team, which currently consists of one lawyer, two legal assistants and two researchers. On Tuesday, SCSL chief prosecutor Stephen Rapp said that Taylor's trial will continue [JURIST report] as scheduled despite Taylor's boycott. Last Friday, SCSL President Justice George Gelaga-King urged [press release, PDF] the international community to provide more financial support for the SCSL, warning that "all available funds will be exhausted by November 2007." The SCSL estimates it will require a total of $89 million to complete its mandate in the next three years. In May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] and Rapp issued similar pleas for voluntary financial contribution [JURIST report]. The current leading donors for the court are the United States, the Netherlands, Britain, and Canada. The New York Times has more.

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