Sunday, December 20, 2009

Civil Trial Against Charles Taylor Jr.: Day 3

We concluded the fact witness portion of the trial last Wednesday (thanks for your patience the past few days - it's been a busy time!) and have only the testimony from our expert witness to go. Our expert will testify in January 2010. With help from the US Embassy in Liberia, we were able to connect a second witness to testify from Liberia in the courtroom in Miami Wednesday morning. The last of our five plaintiffs gave her testimony in the afternoon and included a detail for which other plaintiffs expressed appreciation, saying it was a very important point to understand: she noted to the judge that Liberians never expected Taylor Sr. to do to them the horrible things he did. Some witnesses hail from Nimba County - an area that supported Taylor Sr. before he became president. Once he assumed that role and began to wreck havoc on the nation, some blamed Nimba County residents for backing him in the first place. Her words and her tears explained that her people never dreamt he was capable of the terror he inflicted. Her trust - and desperation - were so deep that she hand-carried a letter during the war to soldiers' army barracks, asking for help to support her family after her husband was forced into exile. With this bravery, it is no surprise that she had the courage to come forward with her story. On a final procedural note on Wednesday, the judge denied the defendant's motion to vacate the default judgment entered against him in May 2009.

If you'd like to read more about coverage of the trial in general, click here or here, for more about the first day, click here, here or here. (You may have noted other articles have suggested that all five plaintiffs are men. This is not accurate - two are women.)

Thanks to all of you who followed the trial! We will be back with more news in the new year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Civil Trial Against Charles Taylor, Jr.: Day 2

The second day of trial went smoothly. We completed testimony from one live witness and were able to connect via video with help from IT at the Court and at the U.S. Embassy to complete testimony from another witness in Liberia. Some of the testimony was difficult for many in the courtroom to hear. Even ten years after the events at issue took place, the harms our clients suffered are painful. The trial resumes today at 10 am.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Civil Trial Against Charles Taylor, Jr.: Day 1 (cont'd)

Our civil trial began today after we addressed several preliminary matters raised by Defendant Taylor. With assistance from the Public Defenders in his criminal case, Defendant Taylor moved to vacate the default judgment entered last May and postpone the trial. After ensuring that Defendant Taylor understood his requests and his rights, the judge denied Defendant Taylor's motion to postpone the trial. The judge then granted our request to have two of our clients who were not able to travel to the United States testify by video conference. (The first such testimony should take place Tuesday.)

Then, after the Court certified an interpreter to assist with testimony (Liberian English differs from American English), the trial got underway with testimony from our first witness. His testimony addressed the physical abuse he endured at the hands of Defendant Taylor and his ATU soldiers. This witness also testified about the lasting physical, emotional, and financial impact he still suffers today.

We will update you on the trial's progress tomorrow. In the meantime, our clients are adjusting to the new time zone and two tried their first hamburger (and liked it!) last night. We have discovered that habenero peppers are nearly hot enough to substitute for Liberian pepper in cooking. And, miraculously to those of us who cannot cook, one client was able to make perfect rice in the small frying pan provided in the kitchenettes of the hotel where we are staying.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Civil Trial Against Charles Taylor, Jr.: Day 1

The civil trial against Charles Taylor, Jr. begins today in the Southern District of Florida. Three of the five plaintiffs safely arrived in the United States to participate in person. We will be providing accounts from the trial at this site over the course of the next few days and a more detailed account once the trial has concluded.

For an AP Article by Curt Anderson regarding the case, please click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cost-free giving!

Looking for a quick, easy, and affordable way to help your favorite non-profits this holiday season? Now is the chance to give at no cost!

Facebook and Chase Community Giving have partnered together to give away $5 million to 100 small organizations like Human Rights USA, and they want YOU to vote for the organizations that matter most to you!

This is your chance to support the organization that:
If you're going to give this holiday season, why not give Human Rights USA the recognition and resources it needs to continue its ongoing mission to secure justice for victims of human rights abuses?

Here's how it works:
  • Round 1: From Nov. 15, 2009 to Dec. 11, 2009 (11:59pm EST), Facebook users can vote for any Charity that is part of the Chase Community Giving application. Chase will donate $25,000 to each of the 100 Charities receiving the most votes in Round 1.
  • Round 2: From Jan. 15, 2010 to Jan. 22, 2010, participants may vote for the 100 Round 2 Charities. Chase will donate $1,000,000 to the Round 2 Charity receiving the most votes and will donate $100,000 to the five runners up.
(A full list of rules may be found at the Chase Community Giving fan page on Facebook.)

Vote for human Rights USA and then get friends and others on Facebook to do the same.

Voting is simple:

1. Sign up for a Facebook account if you don't already have one. Signing up is easy, and it's free!
2. Become a fan of Chase Community Giving on Facebook (required in order to vote).
3. Cast your vote for Human Rights USA by either clicking here or searching for "World Organization for Human Rights USA" on the Chase Giving page.
4. Post information about the contest to your wall, and invite your friends to vote!

That's it! No messy credit card transactions. No complicated forms to fill out. And all it took was a minute. Not a bad investment of your time, huh?

Voting for Round 1 ends on December 11, so hurry!

Monday, December 7, 2009

CAUTION: Human Rights USA Name Being Used in Internet Scheme (12/7/2009)

It has recently come to our attention that the names of the World Organization for Human Rights USA and at least one of our staff members are being used in an internet scheme designed to deceive individuals into sending their personal information (including passport numbers) to a designated e-mail address. While we do host events from time to time, we have no conferences planned in the near future and are in no way affiliated with this scheme, which we believe to be a scam or fraud.

If you have already sent your personal information to the designated e-mail address, we suggest you use this link to report the fraud to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

Please feel free to contact us if you have questions about whether an email message that appears to be from Human Rights USA is authentic.