At Taylor’s Verdict: Dissenting Judge Microphone Switch-off
There are particles of dust in the air amidst unanswered questions as to how a surprise drama during the Charles Taylor April 26 verdict received no attention from the media despite the wide international coverage that marred the event.
It all happened when one of the four judges, an alternate judge, Senegalese judge Malick Sow opposed the decision of the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague to convict Taylor for aiding and abetting all the 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In an unexpected turn of events, as Justice Sow gave his dissenting opinion on the verdict, Justice Lussick (Presiding), Justice Doherty and Justice Sebutinde rose to leave the courtroom as his microphone was switched-off and curtains drawn.
Justice Sow addressed the Court: “The only moment where a Judge can express his opinion is during the deliberations or in the courtroom, and, pursuant to the Rules, when there are no serious deliberations; the only place left for me is the courtroom."
"I won’t get — because I think we have been sitting for too long but for me I have my dissenting opinion and I disagree with the findings and conclusions of the other Judges, because for me under any mode of liability, under any accepted standard of proof, the guilt of the accused from the evidence provided in this trial is not proved beyond reasonable doubt by the Prosecution. "
"And my only worry is that the whole system is not consistent with all the principles we know and love, and the system is not consistent with all the values of international criminal justice, and I’m afraid the whole system is under grave danger of just losing all credibility, and I’m afraid this whole thing is headed for failure.”
“Hearing the voice of their counterpart did not deter Justices Lussick, Doherty and Sebutinde from walking out. Justice Sow’s microphone immediately cut out and a curtain was drawn across the public gallery. Nonetheless, he persisted to air his views to those present, unaided by a microphone” reports say.
The West African Democracy Radio WADR reported that although Justice Sow microphone was switched off, he spoke in detail through a statement released after judgment was closed. He was not one of the three judges that had the voting power but legally he had the right to make a statement either in favor or against the judgment, the WADR quoted legal experts as saying.
There are provision for both the prosecution and defense to appeal. Charles Taylor will be sentenced on May 30.