Tag Archives: Special Court for Sierra Leone

Interpretations of aiding and abetting

Analysis from Alpha Sesay on the Charles Taylor appeal ruling, via the Trial of Charles Taylor blog:

Before today’s judgment, there was a lot of anxiety among observers about whether the recent decision of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the case of Momčilo Perišić would have an impact on Taylor’s case. In the Perišić case, the ICTY Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber’s decision that convicted Perišić for aiding and abetting the commission of serious crimes. The Appeals Chamber in Perišić decided that for a person to be convicted for aiding and abetting, it is not sufficient that his conduct had “substantial impact” on the commission of crimes, but rather, that his conduct was “specifically directed” to the commission of said crimes.

The Trial Chamber in Taylor’s case had also dismissed a “specific direction” requirement and had said it was sufficient that Taylor’s conduct had a “substantial impact” on RUF/AFRC crimes in Sierra Leone. In today’s judgment, the Special Court’s Appeals Chamber judges said they were not persuaded by the ICTY’s finding that “specific direction” is an element of aiding and abetting.

Taylor Defense hopes alternate judge will testify

Charles Taylor’s defense team hopes to call the alternate judge (the guy who tried to say something after the verdict was announced, but the live feed was cut off) to testify during the appeals process. From The Daily Observer, quoting the defense appeal motion:

“The defense intends to call as witness on appeal, former Special Court Justice El Hadji Malik Sow. He is expected to testify on his statement that there were “no deliberations” as is alleged in Ground of Appeal 36 of the notice of Appeal, including his presence (or lack thereof) at any purported deliberations amongst the justices of Trial Chamber II.”

Human Rights Watch report on Taylor trial

Highlights from a new Human Rights Watch report on the Charles Taylor trial:

  • The indictment could have been narrower, and still representative of crimes committed. This would have shortened the length of the trial.
  • There were far too many crime-based witnesses, given that the defense did not deny that many awful things happened during the Sierra Leone war. Even if the defense did deny certain crimes, as some have alleged, the prosecution did not need to call 59 crime-based witnesses. This is almost twice the number of linkage witnesses who testified for the prosecution.
  • The report lists several lessons that similar trials could learn from the Taylor trial. The first lesson: “Appointing judges with substantial complex criminal trial experience could contribute significantly to effective courtroom management.”

On camera cancer beams and Taylor’s doctorate

Nicholas Jahr has written the most interesting article I’ve seen on the Charles Taylor trial. (h/t to Dan)

“My name is Dankpannah Dr. Charles Ghankay Taylor, the 21st President of the Republic of Liberia.” Taylor’s first words on the witness stand [...]

“Ghankay” [...] means “one who is strong.” Taylor picked up the doctorate after he was elected president, while visiting Taiwan, a gift from the Chinese Culture University for granting the country diplomatic recognition.

He first claimed the title “Dankpannah” back in 1997, when he married Jewel Howard (now a senator in Liberia, and the chair of Taylor’s National Patriotic Party). Nobody had heard the honorific until it was used in their wedding vows, which raised some eyebrows. Despite its indigenous ring, its origins are unclear. It suggests Taylor was recognized as the leader of the Poro, the initiation societies of Liberia’s bush, except historically the Poro didn’t have a single leader, certainly not before the mid-20th century, when the Americo-Liberian elite began trying to centralize control over the tradition. On cross-examination, the prosecution argued Taylor wasn’t even the rightful possessor of the title.

More telling is what Taylor left out of the equation: His full given name is Charles McArthur Taylor, a fact he himself mentioned in passing the following day. That makes him sound more like one of the aforementioned Americo-Liberians, a descendant of the freed slaves who “founded” Liberia. [...] By dropping “McArthur,” Taylor downplayed his Americo-Liberian origins [...], and played up the image of the African leader under interrogation.

On Taylor taking the stand in his own defense for weeks:

As Taylor continues to hold forth uninterrupted day after day, week after week, it’s hard to escape the sense that an implicit deal has been struck: the prosecutor won’t object, Griffiths will appear to ride herd, and Taylor will say his piece. No one will be able to say he didn’t have the chance to make his case; no one will be able to challenge the orderliness, the legitimacy of his prosecution.

On a strange discussion of a camera:

Taylor’s one lunatic moment on the stand comes out of nowhere [...]. Griffiths is questioning him about his government’s arrest of documentarian Sorious Samura and his crew nine years earlier on charges of espionage. Taylor says that the interview Samura had scheduled was “an attempt to kill me.” But he goes further: “A major Western intelligence source” informed his government that the camera Samura would use to tape the interview “contained some beam or something that fired at me would, over a period of time, lead to cancer.” As Taylor was told: “The camera is going to be your demise.”

Griffiths did not follow up. Of course, the source might simply have meant that Taylor was liable to betray himself on film, or that mere reporting was more of a threat to his rule than any rebellion. Then again, Fidel Castro has claimed that in 1971 the C.I.A. designed a camera with a gun inside to take him out. In 2001, two men posing as documentary filmmakers assassinated Ahmed Shah Massoud in Afghanistan; their camera was packed full of explosives (Taylor would later claim he’d been briefed about this, although it occurred a year after Samura’s arrest; the prosecution seized on that as evidence of perjury). Cancer-beams aside, the claim wasn’t quite as crazy as it might seem. Or maybe it was simply an attempt to stoke Taylor’s paranoia. It was one of the few hints of the Taylor so often portrayed in the international media: a man enthralled by superstition and dark portents.

There is a justifiably damning critique of former prosecutor David Crane, who Jahr shows was unqualfied (before the Taylor trial, he had no courtroom experience) and made bad prosecutorial decisions (e.g. the decision to indict Hinga Norman). Jahr quotes an official who suggests no one could fight Bush’s nomination of Crane because of US financial support to the Special Court.

Thoughts on the Taylor trial appeals

Both prosecution and defense have appealed Charles Taylor’s verdict and sentence. Taylor was found guilty only of aiding and abetting the RUF. The prosecution is appealing on the grounds that the judges committed errors of fact in failing to find Taylor individually criminally responsible for RUF crimes. The prosecution also is asking that the sentence be increased from 50 to 80 years.

The defense appeal is more complicated, and contains 45 grounds for appeal that allege various ways in which the judges erred in fact and law. The Trial of Charles Taylor blog summarizes:

Included in the numerous grounds of appeal are findings of the judges that Taylor was involved in planning attacks on Kono, Makeni, and Freetown in late 1998 and early 1999, the Chamber’s finding that he assisted the commission of crimes by providing medical assistance to rebel forces in Sierra Leone, that he assisted the commission of crimes by providing a guesthouse for RUF rebels in Liberia, that the jail term of 50 years that Taylor has been sentenced is “manifestly unreasonable,” that the judges “erred” in their failure to consider Taylor’s expression of sympathy as grounds of mitigation, that there were irregularities in the proceedings based on the statement made by the Alternate Judge El-Hadj Malick Sow that the there had been no deliberations among the judges, and that Justice Julia Sebutinde’s participation in the proceedings after she had already become a judge of the International Court of Justice was irregular.

It’s funny the defense chooses to question Justice Sebutinde’s presence on the bench, given that she ruled in favor of Taylor on various issues much more frequently than the other judges and was the defense’s strongest ally in the courtroom.

Taylor is guilty of far more than aiding and abetting the RUF, and 50 years in prison is too short. But I am sympathetic to the first part of the defense appeal. Defense argues that the judges relied too heavily on uncorroborated hearsay and did not sufficiently consider witness credibility. These critiques are in line with Tim Kelsall’s assessment of the Special Court ruling at the CDF trial, where he observes that the judges did things like ignore contradictions in witness testimony.

“To God be the glory for making it possible for me to see this day.”

Dear All,
I received the news of the sentencing of Charles Taylor to 50 years jail-term with gratitude. I thank the persecuting team for a job well done. Mr. Charles Taylor will see Africa no more but garnish his teeth in prison.
When Captain Goldteeth was amputated my hands, pour fuel and set me on fire beside the cemetery at Shell bus stop, Kessy bye pass, Freetown he never knew that I will survive.
To God be the glory for making it possible for me to see this day. The Bible says though it tarries wait for it, it will surely come. To all our partners around the world I say a big thank you, most especially, OSJI for their consistence in following up on CT issue.
I call on Nigerian government to take adequate measure to identify, rehabilitate, reintegrate and reinstitute all Nigerian victims of Charles Taylor atrocities in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
David Anyaele

An excerpt from a comment posted to the Trial of Charles Taylor blog. It seems to be from a Nigerian who was living in Sierra Leone during the war.

I received the news of the sentencing of Charles Taylor to 50 years jail-term with gratitude. I thank the persecuting team for a job well done. Mr. Charles Taylor will see Africa no more but garnish his teeth in prison.

When Captain Goldteeth was amputated my hands, pour fuel and set me on fire beside the cemetery at Shell bus stop, Kessy bye pass, Freetown he never knew that I will survive.

To God be the glory for making it possible for me to see this day. The Bible says though it tarries wait for it, it will surely come. To all our partners around the world I say a big thank you, most especially, OSJI for their consistence in following up on CT issue.

I call on Nigerian government to take adequate measure to identify, rehabilitate, reintegrate and reinstitute all Nigerian victims of Charles Taylor atrocities in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Charles Taylor sentencing justification

Some interesting excerpts from the sentencing, via a Special Court press release:
[T]he Trial Chamber found that Mr. Taylor’s abuse of his  position as President of Liberia to aid and abet the commission of crimes in Sierra Leone, and the abuse of his
position as a member of the ECOWAS Committee of Five (later Six), which was “part of the process relied on by the international community to bring peace to Sierra Leone,” was “an aggravating factor of great weight.”
The Judges also cited the extra-territoriality of Mr. Taylor’s acts, and his exploitation of the Sierra Leone conflict for financial gain, as aggravating factors considered in the sentencing.
The Judges took into account the report of Mr. Taylor’s good conduct in detention, but otherwise rejected a number of mitigating factors proposed by the Defence.
While the jurisprudence of the Special Court and other tribunals “holds that aiding and abetting as a mode of liability generally warrants a lesser sentence than that imposed for more direct forms of participation,” Justice Lussick said that Mr. Taylor’s leadership role “puts him in a class of his own.”
“The Trial Chamber wishes to underscore the gravity it attaches to Mr. Taylor’s betrayal of the public trust,” Justice Lussick said. “In the Trial Chamber’s view, this betrayal outweighs the distinctions that might otherwise pertain to to the modes of liability discussed above.”`

Interesting excerpts from the sentencing, via a Special Court press release:

[T]he Trial Chamber found that Mr. Taylor’s abuse of his  position as President of Liberia to aid and abet the commission of crimes in Sierra Leone, and the abuse of his position as a member of the ECOWAS Committee of Five (later Six), which was “part of the process relied on by the international community to bring peace to Sierra Leone,” was “an aggravating factor of great weight.”

The Judges also cited the extra-territoriality of Mr. Taylor’s acts, and his exploitation of the Sierra Leone conflict for financial gain, as aggravating factors considered in the sentencing.

The Judges took into account the report of Mr. Taylor’s good conduct in detention, but otherwise rejected a number of mitigating factors proposed by the Defence.

While the jurisprudence of the Special Court and other tribunals “holds that aiding and abetting as a mode of liability generally warrants a lesser sentence than that imposed for more direct forms of participation,” Justice Lussick said that Mr. Taylor’s leadership role “puts him in a class of his own.”

“The Trial Chamber wishes to underscore the gravity it attaches to Mr. Taylor’s betrayal of the public trust,” Justice Lussick said. “In the Trial Chamber’s view, this betrayal outweighs the distinctions that might otherwise pertain to to the modes of liability discussed above.”`

Taylor’s friendship with Lubanga, and more

Some fascinating excerpts from an article by Johnny Dwyer on Charles Taylor in Foreign Policy:

Documents received through a Freedom of Information request show that as early as December 2000, the State Department sought information “to weaken and discredit the Taylor regime internationally” as part of a “long-term campaign” to be waged at the United Nations.
[...]
Following Taylor’s arrest and indictment, the State Department, through actions at the United Nations and active fundraising for the tribunal, continued to play an outside role in the proceedings. U.S. diplomats were briefed on Taylor’s finances and the quotidian details of his incarceration — from his diet to his phone allowance to the number of visitors he received — at the ICC detention unit. There, Taylor had struck up a friendship with fellow detainee, Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who was convicted in March.
“The two detainees are apparently getting along well,” an August 2006 cable noted.
[...]
“The process was outlandish. All the years that it took and all of the money that was spent, I think there must be a better method,” said Herman J. Cohen, a former ambassador and assistant secretary of state for Africa during the first Bush administration.
[...]
Taylor also used his testimony to promote the persistent rumors of his connections to intelligence services, including the CIA, whom he claims engineered his escape from jail. (The Plymouth House of Corrections, a chronically overcrowded and out-of-date facility, had suffered a series of escapes prior to Taylor’s.)

Documents received through a Freedom of Information request show that as early as December 2000, the State Department sought information “to weaken and discredit the Taylor regime internationally” as part of a “long-term campaign” to be waged at the United Nations. [...]

Following Taylor’s arrest and indictment, the State Department, through actions at the United Nations and active fundraising for the tribunal, continued to play an outside role in the proceedings. U.S. diplomats were briefed on Taylor’s finances and the quotidian details of his incarceration — from his diet to his phone allowance to the number of visitors he received — at the ICC detention unit. There, Taylor had struck up a friendship with fellow detainee, Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who was convicted in March.

“The two detainees are apparently getting along well,” an August 2006 cable noted. [...]

“The process was outlandish. All the years that it took and all of the money that was spent, I think there must be a better method,” said Herman J. Cohen, a former ambassador and assistant secretary of state for Africa during the first Bush administration. [...]

Taylor also used his testimony to promote the persistent rumors of his connections to intelligence services, including the CIA, whom he claims engineered his escape from jail. (The Plymouth House of Corrections, a chronically overcrowded and out-of-date facility, had suffered a series of escapes prior to Taylor’s.)

Charles Taylor guilty of aiding & abetting, but not command & control or joint criminal enterprise

Charles Taylor listens to verdict.

Charles Taylor listens to verdict.

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.