The Special Court for Sierra Leone delivered their verdict this morning. It took more than two hours to read, and involved first ruling on the facts of the case, then the role Taylor played, and then the legal findings. Taylor sat behind his legal team, periodically taking notes.
Judge Lussick read the verdict in a monotone voice, pausing only to sip his water or move on to a new section.
The ruling was measured. The court found support for some prosecution allegations, but not others. To give a taste of this, Taylor was found to have provided medical care to some RUF leaders, but it is not clear how continuous or substantial this support was.
Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting all of the charges in the indictment. Thank God.
The most interesting part of the ruling, however, was that the judges found that Taylor did not have command and control over the RUF. Nor was he part of a joint criminal enterprise. Taylor “helped” and “guided” and “substantially influenced.” Bockarie was “deferential” to Taylor. But the RUF was not under Taylor’s control, and Taylor was not part of a joint criminal enterprise, according to the verdict.
In the AFRC trial, the Special Court ruled that joint criminal enterprise was not a crime within the court’s jurisdiction. This trial chamber (of the same court!) implicitly accepted that it was (how is that possible? update: this is possible, also see comment), but found insufficient evidence for this charge.
I wonder how Liberians and Sierra Leoneans who watched the verdict understood it. It seemed so official. “Bockarie received quote top-up-cards end quote,” Judge Lussick said at one point. The court ruled on facts with almost unwavering certainty. What is it like to see a foreigner make these judgements so confidently? Does it bring more certainty to the past, or do local people think the judges were tricked?
Any appeals must be filed within 7 days, and sentencing is set for May 16.
As the judges rose to leave, you could hear via the live stream a male voice (not Taylor or Griffiths, I think – update: it was the alternate judge) say, “I would like to say something before the court is adjourned.” The judges continue to leave the room, but the man goes on, “The one point where the judge–” then the live stream cuts out. It’s not clear who this was.