The Trial of Charles Taylor


Who is Charles Taylor?

  1. Who is Charles Taylor?
  2. Who is trying Charles Taylor?
  3. How and why was the Special Court for Sierra Leone established?
  4. Why is Charles Taylor being prosecuted and what crimes is he charged with?
  5. What are the categories of witnesses testifying against Charles Taylor?
  6. Why is Charles Taylor’s trial taking place in The Hague?
  7. What are the names of the Judges presiding over Charles Taylor’s trial?
  8. What will happen if Charles Taylor is found guilty or not guilty at trial?
  9. If Charles Taylor is found guilty, what kind of sentence will the court issue?
  10. What will happen to Charles Taylor if the Appeals Chamber determines that he is innocent of the charges against him?
  11. Is there a snapshot of what’s happened up to now?
  12. What is the process going forward?
  13. Is Charles Taylor the only person the Special Court is prosecuting?
  14. I want to know more about the charges against Taylor – is there a summary?
  1. Who is Charles Taylor?  From 1989 to 1997, Charles Taylor was leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), a rebel group that fought in Liberia to overthrow the government of Samuel K. Doe. From 1997 to 2003, Taylor was the democratic president of Liberia. In August 2003, based on an agreement with African Heads of State, Taylor left office after rebel forces had come close to entering the Liberian capital, Monrovia. He was granted political asylum in Nigeria. In March 2006, Taylor was transferred to the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone where he now faces trial.
  2. Who is trying Charles Taylor?  The Special Court for Sierra Leone is trying Charles Taylor. Although the trial is being held in The Hague, Mr. Taylor is still being tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The latter part of the trial and judgment is taking place on the premises of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. (The main part of the case was previously held in a courtroom leased from the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague.)
  3. How and why was the Special Court for Sierra Leone established?  The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established on January 16, 2002, under an agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone. It was established to try “those who bear the greatest responsibility” for war crimes, crimes against humanity, other serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996.The Special Court for Sierra Leone differs from other international tribunals such as the Ad Hoc International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Special Court is a hybrid tribunal that makes a blend of international and Sierra Leonean domestic law, as well as a blend of international and domestic Sierra Leonean personnel. Among the eleven judges of the Special Court, seven were appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations while four were appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone. Among these judges, three are Sierra Leoneans, appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone. In like manner, the Prosecutor was appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations while the Deputy Prosecutor, a Sierra Leonean, was appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone.
  4. Why is Charles Taylor being prosecuted and what crimes is he charged with?  Charles Taylor is charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone from November 30, 1996, to January 18, 2002. The Prosecutor alleges that Mr. Taylor is responsible for crimes which include murdering and mutilating civilians, including cutting off their limbs; using women and girls as sex slaves; and abducting children adults and forcing them to perform forced labor or become fighters during the conflict in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has pleaded not guilty.Mr. Taylor is charged on the basis that he allegedly backed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels fighting in Sierra Leone; that he had links with senior leaders in the RUF—such as Foday Sankoh, Sam Bockarie (a.k.a. Mosquito), Issa Sesay, and others—in addition to a second warring faction, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC); and that he was responsible for Liberian forces fighting in support of the Sierra Leonean rebels.The specific counts against Mr. Taylor are:• Five counts of war crimes:terrorizing civilians, murder, outrages on personal dignity, cruel treatment, and looting;• Five counts of crimes against humanity:murder, rape, sexual slavery, mutilating and beating, and enslavement; and• One count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law: recruiting and using child soldiers.The Prosecutor alleges that Mr. Taylor bears individual criminal responsibility for the crimes on the basis that he allegedly took part in the crimes by planning, instigating, and ordering them; aiding and abetting them by providing military training and support to the RUF and AFRC; and taking part in the execution of a plan to take control of Sierra Leone during which the crimes were committed. The Prosecutor further alleges that Mr. Taylor was a superior to perpetrators of the crimes and failed to take reasonable measures to prevent or punish the crimes while knowing or having reason to know about them.
  5. What are the categories of witnesses testifying against Charles Taylor?  The prosecution has presented evidence through three categories of witnesses:
    • Crime Base/Victim Witnesses: Mainly victims of crimes allegedly committed by fighting forces in Sierra Leone. These witnesses are meant to testify about the commission of crimes by RUF and AFRC fighters during the conflict in Sierra Leone.
    • Insider/Linkage Witnesses: Mainly former members of the fighting forces in Sierra Leone and Liberia whose testimonies are meant to link Mr. Taylor with the crimes committed in Sierra Leone.
    • Expert Witnesses: These are witnesses whose education, training, and experience can provide the court with an assessment, opinion, or judgment within the area of their competence, which is not considered known or available to the general public. Their evidence must be accepted by the court and they must normally testify about facts rather than the law.
  6. Why is Charles Taylor’s trial taking place in The Hague?  Citing fears over instability in Liberia if Taylor were tried in neighboring Sierra Leone, Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson backed a bid to have Taylor’s trial moved to The Hague. The Dutch Government asked for a Security Council resolution to authorize the transfer, and said it would host Taylor’s trial on the condition that another country agreed in advance to take Taylor after his trial finished (the United Kingdom agreed). Security Council Resolution 1688 was passed unanimously on June 16, 2006, paving the way for Taylor to be tried by the Special Court on the premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.According to Article 10 of the Special Court Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone, while the seat of the Special Court shall be in Sierra Leone, “…The Court may meet away from its seat if it considers it necessary for the efficient exercise of its functions, and may be relocated outside Sierra Leone, if the circumstances so require…” Pursuant to this provision in the Special Court Agreement, the President of the court, who sits as the presiding judge of the Appeals Chamber issued an order that Mr. Taylor’s trial be held in The Hague due to concerns that holding the trial in Sierra Leone might jeopardize security in the West African sub-region, which might in turn have a negative impact on the work of the Special Court.
  7. What are the names of the Judges presiding over Charles Taylor’s trial?  Charles Taylor’s trial is being conducted in Trial Chamber II of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Trial Chamber II comprises three judges. The names of the judges are:
    • Teresa Doherty from Northern Ireland
    • Richard Lussick from Samoa and
    • Julia Sebutinde from Uganda

    The Chamber also has an alternate judge, who sits in court but does not take part in the proceedings. The alternate judge is a stand-by judge who can step in at anytime one of the three judges is unable or becomes incapacitated to continue serving as judge in the trial. The name of the alternate judge is Justice El Hadji Malick Sow from Senegal.

  8. What will happen if Charles Taylor is found guilty or not guilty at trial?  After hearing evidence from both prosecution and defense, the Trial Chamber Judges will determine the guilt or innocence of Mr. Taylor. If he is found guilty, he will have an option to appeal the judgment of the Trial Chamber. If, on the other hand he is found not guilty, the Prosecution will also have an option to appeal the judgment of the Trial Chamber judges. The appeal from either party will be heard by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court, comprising of five judges. The Appeals Chamber judges can either reaffirm or reverse the decision of the Trial Chamber. Whatever the Appeals Chamber determines will be the final decision and will not be subject to any further appeal.
  9. If Charles Taylor is found guilty, what kind of sentence will the court issue?  According to Article 19 of the Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, if the judges determine that Mr. Taylor is guilty, he will be sentenced to “imprisonment for a specified number of years.” Article 19 further provides that Mr. Taylor could be made to forfeit any “property, proceeds and any assets acquired unlawfully or by criminal conduct, and… return to their rightful owner or to the State of Sierra Leone.” In the case of imprisonment, the United Kingdom has already consented to allow Mr. Taylor to serve his sentence there if he is found guilty.
  10. What will happen to Charles Taylor if the Appeals Chamber determines that he is innocent of the charges against him?  If the Appeals Chamber determines that Mr. Taylor is innocent or not guilty of the charges against him, he will be allowed to walk out of the court as a free man. There will be no other authority to reverse the decision of the Appeals Chamber. No other judicial body will have the power to put Mr. Taylor on trial for the crimes for which he has already been prosecuted but such exclusion from prosecution will apply only to those charges relating to crimes committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone.
  11. Is there a snapshot of what’s happened up to now?  Yes. See the timeline of events leading up to the Taylor trial through the conclusion of the evidence phase.
  12. What is the process going forward?
    • Judgment: The Judges of the Trial Chamber will consider all evidence submitted by both parties and will deliver a judgment that will state whether Charles Taylor has been found guilty on any or all the charges against him, or whether he has not been found guilty. If found not-guilty, the judges will order that Mr. Taylor be released unconditionally. If found guilty, the judges will set a date for sentencing.
    • Sentencing: If found guilty, the Judges will deliver their sentencing judgment, stating how many years of imprisonment Mr. Taylor will serve in jail.
    • Appeals: After the judgment and sentencing, if any party (prosecution or defense) is not satisfied with the decision of the Trial Chamber, that party would make an appeal to the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Therefore, if Mr. Taylor is found guilty by the Trial Chamber, he would still exercise his right to appeal that judgment before the Appeals Chamber. If he is found not-guilty, the prosecution will have the same right of appeal.
    • Appeals oral hearings: Both prosecution and defense would be allowed to make oral arguments before the judges of the Appeals Chamber on what the grounds of their appeals are.
    • Judgment by Appeals Chamber: The Appeals Chamber will deliver its judgment and such judgment could either affirm or reverse the decision of the Trial Chamber. The judgment of the Appeals Chamber will be final and will not be subject to review by any other person/body.
    • Execution of final appeals judgment: The Court would execute the decision of the Appeals Chamber, whether Mr. Taylor should be imprisoned or acquitted. If he is to be imprisoned, whatever time he has spent already in the custody of the Special Court would be deducted from the number of years he should serve. If Mr. Taylor is acquitted, the judges will order that he should be released unconditionally.
  13. Is Charles Taylor the only person the Special Court is prosecuting?  No. The Special Court has three other cases.The Trial of the Prosecutor vs. Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu (the AFRC Accused)The first case decided by the Special Court was brought against three alleged leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Alex Tamba Brimba, Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santigie Borbor Kanu were charged with seven counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of violations of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the laws of war. The three Accused were convicted of 11 of 14 counts on June 20, 2007. ON July 19, 2007, the Trial Chamber sentenced Mr. Kanu and Mr. Brima to 50 years imprisonment, and 45 years for Mr. Kamara. On February 22, 2008, the Appeals Chamber upheld both the judgment and setences. The Prosecutor vs. Samuel Hinga Norman, Moinina Fofafana and Allieu Kondewa (the CDF Accused)Three alleged leaders of the former Civil Defense Forces were indicted separately on 8 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Sam Hinga Norman was indicted on March 7, 2003. Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa were indicted on June 26, 2003. On August 2, 2007, Trial Chamber I found Fofana guilty on four counts of war crimes and Kondewa guilty on five counts, including war crimes and other serious violations international law. The Trial Chamber found both Accused not guilty of crimes against humanity. Mr. Fofana was sentenced to six years imprisonment, and Mr. Kondewa to eight years, minus time served. On appeal, the Appeals Chamber decided on May 28, 2008 that the conviction against Mr. Kondewa on enlisting child soldiers should be overturned, but that both he and Mr. Fofana should be found guilty for a crime of collective punishments. The Appeals Chamber increased their sentences to 15 years imprisonment for Mr. Fofana and 20 years for Kondewa.The Prosecutor vs. Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao (the RUF Accused)Five alleged leaders of the former Revolutionary United Front were indicted separately on 17 counts (later amended to 18 counts) of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Foday Saybana Sankoh, Sam Bockarie, Issa Hassan Sesay, and Morris Kallon were indicted on March 7, 2003. Augustine Gbao was indicted a month later, on April 16, 2003. The indictments against Sankoh and Bockarie were withdrawn on December 8, 2003, because of the deaths of the two accused. In February 2008, all three accused were found guilty of crimes (16 counts for Mr. Sesay and Mr. Kallon, and 14 counts for Mr. Gbao). On April 8, 2009, Mr. Sesay was sentenced to 52 years imprisonment, Mr. Kallon to 40 years, and Mr. Gbao to 25 years. On October 26, 2009, the Appeals Chamber upheld the sentences imposed by the Trial Chamber.
  14. I want to know more about the charges against Taylor – is there a summary?  Yes. Below is an overview of the charges against Mr. Taylor.Mr. Taylor is alleged to bear “the greatest responsibility” for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, committed in the territory of Sierra Leone from November 30, 1996 to January 18, 2002. The prosecution alleges that by his “acts or omissions”, Mr. Taylor is responsible for the crimes in the 11 Count Amended Indictment which is summarized below. Mr. Taylor has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

1. Terrorizing the Civilian Population:

Count 1: Acts of terrorism: To terrorize the civilian population of Sierra Leone: Widespread destruction of civilian property, including burning. (War Crime)

Crime Bases:

  • Kono: Feb. 1, 1998 to Dec. 31, 1998: Koidu, Tombodu, Njaiama Sewafe, Wendedu and Bumpeh.
  • Freetown and Western Area: Dec. 21 1998 to Feb. 28 1998: Kissy and eastern Freetown, Fourah Bay, Upgun, State House, Calaba Town, Kingtom and Podemba Road areas, Hastings, Goderich, Kent, Grafton, Wellington, Tumbo, Waterloo and Benguema.

2. Unlawful Killings:

Count 2: Murder (Crime Against Humanity)

Count3: Violence to life, health, and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder. (War Crime)

Crime Bases:

  • Kenema District: May 25, 1997 to May 19, 1999: Kenema and Tongo Fields.
  • Kono District: Feb. 1, 1998 to January 31, 2000: Koidu, Tombodu, Koidu Gieya, Koidu Burma, Yengema, Paema or Peyima, Bomboa Fuidu, Bumpe, Njaiama Nimikoro, and Mortema.
  • Kailahun: Feb 1, 1998 to June 30, 1998: Kailahun town
  • Freetown and Western Area: Dec. 21, 1998 to Feb. 28, 1999: State House, Kissy, Fourah Bay, Upgun, Calaba Town, Allen Town, Tower Hill areas of the city, Hastings, Wellington, Tumbo, Waterloo, and Benguema.

3. Sexual Violence

Count 4: Rape. (Crime Against Humanity)

Count 5: Sexual Slavery. (Crime Against Humanity)

Count 6: Outrages upon personal dignity. (War Crime)

Crime Bases

  • Kono: Feb 1 1998 to Dec. 31, 1998: Koidu, Tombodu, Wondedu, Superman Ground, Guinea Highway and PC Ground
  • Kailahun District: Nov. 30, 1996 to Jan. 18, 2002: Throughout the district.
  • Freetown and the Western Area: Dec. 21, 1998 to Feb. 28, 1999: Throughout Freetown and the Western Area.

4. Physical Violence

Count 7: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons in particular cruel treatment. (War Crime)

Count 8: Other inhumane acts, i.e. widespread acts of physical violence against civilians. (Crime Against Humanity)

Crime Bases

  • Kono District: Feb. 1, 1998 to Dec. 31, 1998: Mutilations/cutting off limbs or marking AFRC/RUF on body parts in Tombodu, Kaima and Wondedu.
  • Kailahun District: Nov. 30, 1996 to Jan. 18, 2002: Beat civilians throughout Kailahun district.
  • Freetown and Western Area: Dec. 21, 1998 to Feb. 28, 1999: Mutilated, including cutting of limbs and beat civilians at Kissy, around State House, Fourah Bay, Upgun, Kissy Mental Hospital, Hastings, Tombo, Wellington, Waterloo and Benguema.

5. Child Soldiers

Count 9: Conscripting and enlisting children under age 15. (Other Serious Violation of International Humanitarian Law)

Crime Base

  • Throughout Sierra Leone: Nov. 30 1996 to Jan. 18 2002.

6. Abductions and Forced Labour

Count 10: Enslavement. I.e., abductions and use of civilians as forced labour. (Crime Against Humanity)

Crime Bases

  • Kenema District: July 1, 1997 to Feb. 28, 1998: Forced labour in Tongo.
  • Kono District: Feb. 1, 1998 to Jan. 18, 2002: Abducted civilians and used them as forced labour in AFRC/RUF Camps, Tombodu, Koidu and Wondedu.
  • Kailahun District: Nov. 30, 1996 to Jan. 19, 2002: Forced labour throughout Kailahun district
  • Freetown and Western Area: Dec. 21, 1998 to Feb. 28, 1999: Forced labour throughout Freetown and the Western Area.

7. Looting

Count 11: Pillage. I.e. Taking of civilian property. (War Crime)

Crime Bases

  • Kono District: Feb. 1, 1998 to Dec. 31, 1998: Various locations including Koidu, Tombodu and Bumpeh.
  • Bombali District: Feb. 1, 1998 to April 30, 1998: Various locations including Makeni.
  • Port Loko: Feb. 1, 1998 to April 30, 1998: Various locations including Masiaka.
  • Freetown and Western Area: Dec. 21, 1998 to Feb. 28, 1998, throughout Freetown.

Mr. Taylor is charged with three forms of criminal liability.

Individual Criminal Responsibility: Accused planned, instigated, ordered, committed or aided and abetted planning, preparation and execution said crimes

Joint Criminal Enterprise: Crimes amounted to or were involved within a common plan, design, purpose in which the accused participated or were reasonable foreseeable consequence of the common plan, design and purpose.

Command Responsibility: The accused held positions of superior responsibility and exercising command and control over subordinate members of the RUF, AFRC, RUF/AFRC alliance and Liberian fighters and so is responsible for the crimes committed in the indictment. The accused knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such crime or had done so and the accused failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or punish the perpetrator.

Categories of Crimes

1. Crimes Against Humanity

  • Count 2: Murder
  • Count 4: Rape
  • Count 5: Sexual slavery and any other form of sexual violence
  • Count 8: Other Inhumane Acts
  • Count 10: Enslavement

2. War Crimes

  • Count 1: Acts of Terrorism
  • Count 3: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder
  • Count 6: Outrages upon personal dignity (Rape and sexual violence)
  • Count 7: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment
  • Count 11: Pillage

3. Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law

  • Count 9: Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities.

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