Thursday, April 26, 2012

The SCSL's Taylor Judgment: A Summary

(Another of IntLawGrrls' several posts on the Charles Taylor judgment, part of our Sierra Leone accountability series)

At 11 a.m. today Hague time, Trial Chamber II of the Special Court for Sierra Leone released its long-awaited judgment in the case of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia. Taylor faced an 11-count indictment for crimes against humanity and war crimes. These charges included the crimes against humanity of murder, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement and other inhumane acts, and the war crimes of committing acts of terror, murder, outrages upon personal dignity, cruel treatment, pillage and conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities. In a unanimous judgment, Trial Chamber II convicted Taylor on all counts of aiding and abetting the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) rebel groups and/or Liberian fighters operating in Sierra Leone. Specifically, Taylor was found to have provided assistance to the RUF, the AFRC or the joint RUF-AFRC junta in the following ways:
►By providing arms and ammunition, either directly or through intermediaries. For example, he facilitated two large shipments of arms used by the RUF and RUF-AFRC in their military operations, including Operation Pay Yourself and the Freetown invasion. These weapons and ammunition had a substantial effect on the crimes committed by the RUF and RUF-AFRC during the indictment period.
►By providing military personnel, including the Scorpion Unit, who helped commit crimes in various operations;
►By providing operational support, such as phones and radio contact;
►By providing financial support – for example, funds to Sam Bockarie (RUF Battlefield Commander) to purchase arms. He provided a guesthouse in Monrovia for the RUF, which facilitated their procurement of arms and ammunition;
►By providing security escorts, free passage through checkpoints, medical support, safe haven for RUF fighters, food, clothes, cigarettes and alcohol for the RUF; and
►By providing moral support through ongoing advice and encouragement to senior members of the RUF on tactics.
Taylor was also found guilty of working with Bockarie to select strategic areas within Sierra Leone to attack and control, such as the diamond mining areas and Freetown. The Trial Chamber referred to this as the Bockarie-Taylor two-pronged plan. Taylor was found to have told Bockarie to make the attacks “fearful” and Bockarie repeated this request again and again as he conveyed his orders for the attacks. Taylor was also found to have told Bockarie to “use all means” to get to Freetown. The Trial Chamber found that he was kept aware of the evolution of the Bockarie-Taylor plan and the resulting RUF-AFRC crimes committed against civilians.
The verdict is surely a disappointment to the Prosecutor, who was found to have failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Taylor had superior responsibility for the RUF, AFRC, joint RUF-AFRC junta and/or Liberian fighters, or that he had participated in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) with these groups.
The Trial Chamber also found that the Prosecutor did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Taylor had ordered RUF or AFRC crimes in Sierra Leone. More specifically, the Trial Chamber found that Taylor had substantial influence over the leadership of the RUF and, to a lesser extent, the AFRC. However, that fell short of effective command and control. The RUF’s leaders – Foday Sankoh, Sam Bockarie and Issa Sesay – did not take orders from Taylor, though Taylor did provide them with guidance. Taylor was found to also have provided guidance, advice and direction to Johnny Paul Koroma, leader of the AFRC, but Koroma was not a subordinate of Taylor and Taylor did not control the AFRC or the AFRC-RUF junta. There was also insufficient evidence that the Liberian fighters in Sierra Leone were under Taylor’s command and control. Under the JCE form of liability, the Trial Chamber found that the prosecution failed to prove that any of the three meetings where the common plan was said to have been established even took place. And, while Taylor provided significant support to the RUF, it was not proven that this support was provided as part of a JCE.
On the other hand, the verdict is also clearly a disappointment for the defence, who had argued that Taylor was not involved with the conflict, except as an elder statesman trying to bring peace to Sierra Leone.
The exchange of diamonds was an important part of the Trial Chamber’s discussion: Taylor was found to have accepted diamonds from the RUF and, in exchange, supplied the RUF with weapons and ammunition. Taylor was also found to have accepted diamonds from the RUF to hold for safekeeping.
The summary of the judgment took over two hours to read, and was presented by Presiding Judge Richard Lussick. It is now publicly available here. At the time of posting, the judgment itself is not yet available. See here for the SCSL's press release on the judgment. See here for the Prosecutor's press release.
The next phase of the case is sentencing. The Prosecutor has until May 3 to file its submissions on sentencing. The defence must file its response and views by May 10. The sentencing hearing will take place on May 16 at 9:30 a.m. The prosecution and defence will each be given one hour to present their views, and Taylor has 30 minutes to address the court, if he wishes. The sentencing judgment will be released on May 30 at 11 a.m.
IntLawGrrls’ analysis of the Taylor judgment will continue over the next several days.

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