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Is Taylor Guilty As Charged?

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Is Taylor Guilty As Charged?

After a trial lasting three years and 10 months, the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, was found guilty by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on 11 counts of “aiding and abetting” crimes committed in Sierra Leone by rebel forces between 1996 and 2002. But as the Court acquitted him of the most serious charges of “joint criminal enterprise”, “command and control”, “instigating” and “ordering” the crimes, how is it possible that he was found guilty on all 11 counts in the indictment, and not only on some of them? Did superpower politics have a say in the verdict?

THE DILEMMA IN WHICH THE former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, finds himself now is akin to a man who decides to eat with the devil and forgets to use a long spoon. His love-hate relationship with the USA since the 1980s appears to have caught up with him; and now the Americans can smugly sit back and watch him swim in his “own” stew – at least that is what they want the world to believe.

That Taylor was not tried for the “crimes” committed in Liberia where for 14 years he commanded all he surveyed, but he is likely to rot in jail for “aiding and abetting” crimes committed in Sierra Leone, should tell the depth of the machinations behind his trial. For many years to come, legal experts will pore over the guilty verdict handed down by Trial Chamber II of the Special Court of Sierra Leone in The Hague on 26 April, and wonder how one could be acquitted of the most serious charges in a case and yet be found guilty on all 11 counts in the indictment. It makes the law look really like an ass indeed. And not only that, it lends credence to an assertion by George Monbiot of The Guardian (UK) that “international law remains an imperial project in which only the crimes committed by vassal states are punished.”

In an article published four days after Taylor’s verdict, Monbiot said: “The conviction of Charles Taylor … is said to have sent an unequivocal message to current leaders: that great office confers no immunity. In fact it sent two messages: if you run a small, weak nation, you may be subject to the full force of international law; if you run a powerful nation, you have nothing to fear.”

Which rhymes with what Taylor himself said in an interview with New African published in July/Aug 2002: “If your master is your enemy, you are doomed.”

But knowing that his and Liberia’s master, the USA, was his enemy (even though at some point they were friends), Taylor should have refrained from the sort of activities that have now landed him firmly in the grip of the “aiding and abetting” charge that the Special Court has found him guilty of, and which is likely to send him to prison for a very long time. To see the menacing shadow of superpower politics that dangled over the case, one only needs to ponder how Taylor could be acquitted of the four most serious charges in the indictment, and yet on the basis of being found guilty of two (some would say) lesser charges – “aiding and abetting”, and “planning” one war strategy (the Court cited just one such plan) for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone in a conflict that took 11 years to finish, he was found guilty on all 11 counts in the indictment.

This is most curious as it is tantamount to finding an accused man guilty of manslaughter, but not of murder, and yet giving him a sentence prescribed for murder. Already the Prosecution has asked for an 80-year jail term for Taylor in its pre-sentence brief. Although the Court will announce its definitive sentence on 30 May, the mind game being played by the Prosecution, staffed at the top by ex-American intelligence officers, cannot be lost on anybody.

You start by asking for 80 years, the Court disagrees and cuts it by half. You get 40, which is what you really wanted in the first place, knowing that the accused, who is now 64 years old, will be 104 before he comes out. But as not many people live to 104, it is likely that he won’t come out alive – and that, to you, is tantamount to a death sentence!

In the meantime, the Americans and their British allies, who drove the trial, will have achieved their goal of getting Taylor out of the Liberian presidency and politics forever, which is what the contraption called the Special Court for Sierra Leone was mainly set up for.

To the uninitiated eye, it seems justice has been served by the guilty verdict announced on 26 April; in fact that is what almost all the commentary in the media has claimed it is since the verdict was announced. But there is more to it than meets the eye. For example, since 4 June 2003 when the Special Court unsealed Taylor’s indictment, the Prosecution put great store, inside and outside the Court, on Taylor having engaged in a “joint criminal enterprise” with Foday Sankoh, leader of the RUF, the rebel group that fought a destructive war with the government for 11 years (from 1991 to 2002), and Kukoi Samba Sanyang, a former failed coup leader of Gambia, to create and implement a plan to get physical and political control over Sierra Leone in order to exploit the country’s vast diamond resources.

In furtherance of this “joint criminal enterprise”, Taylor was said by the Prosecution to have exercised not only “command and control” over the RUF and its allied groups, but also “instigated” and “ordered” the atrocities that the RUF and its associated groups – General Johnny Paul Koroma’s Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and an AFRC/RUF alliance – committed in the course of the conflict. But after 420 trial days over the course of 3 years and 10 months, and 94 Prosecution witnesses and 782 Prosecution exhibits – and, on top of that the three judges of Trial Chamber II having taken a further 2 years and 3 months to ponder their verdict – the Court found that Taylor was not guilty after all of the most serious charges of “joint criminal enterprise”, “command and control”, “instigating” and “ordering” the crimes listed in the indictment.

And yet, on the basis of finding him guilty of “aiding and abetting” the RUF war effort, and “planning” one RUF war strategy in a conflict that spanned 11 long years, Trial Chamber II found Taylor guilty on all the 11 counts in the indictment! How that is possible, only the Court can tell.

Perhaps Taylor had to be found guilty at a certain point to justify the massive political and financial investment put into creating the Court and sustaining it for the past nine years. Hundreds of millions of dollars, given mainly by America, Britain and the EU countries, had gone into the Court’s infrastructure and the fat salaries of the judges, lawyers and the sundry staff.

Something big had to be shown for this huge investment! And what comes bigger than getting a conviction of America’s bête noire in Liberia and imprisoning him for a very long time. Even before the case started on 4 June 2007, Britain had already offered its prisons for Taylor’s incarceration.

Significantly, Taylor’s case is the last to be tried by the Court. It will wind down (after Taylor’s case) and hand over its fortified compound in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, to the government to be used by the local judiciary. The purpose of the Western powers behind the Court (notably America and Britain), whose main goal was to get Taylor permanently out of Liberian politics, will have been served.

Political element

The politics of the trial is such that even the judges could not ignore it when pronouncing judgement on 26 April. “With regard to the issue of selective prosecution, the Trial Chamber found that the accused was not singled out for selective prosecution,” Justice Richard Lussick, from Samoa, who presided over the judgement session on 26 April, found it necessary to stress.

But anybody who knew the extent of the roles played by the American government under George W. Bush, and to a lesser extent Tony Blair’s in Britain, in driving the arrest and trial of Taylor; and the roles played by Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré, and the former Libyan leader, Muammar Al Gathafi, in both the Liberian and Sierra Leonean conflicts, would have been shocked to hear Justice Lussick say Taylor was not a victim of “selective prosecution”.

Much of the training, arming and funding of both the RUF in Sierra Leone and Taylor’s own NPFL rebels in Liberia came from Gathafi via Burkina Faso. But while Gathafi and Compaoré were left in peace, Taylor was indicted and now convicted on “aiding and abetting” the RUF war effort.

In fact, the first American chief prosecutor of the Special Court, David Crane, another ex-intelligence officer, has publicly admitted since he was given a new job by President Barack Obama that he did not indict Gathafi and Compaoré because of political reasons and also the Court did not have the wherewithal to take on three African presidents at the same time.

This made Taylor’s Defence team maintain throughout the trial that his prosecution had from the outset been “selective and vindictive in nature … on the basis of political motives and interests”.

The indictment

The 11 counts against Taylor read as follows: (Count 1) Acts of terrorism. (Count 2) Murder. (Count 3) Violence to life, health, and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder. (Count 4) Rape. (Count 5) Sexual slavery. (Count 6) Outrages upon personal dignity. (Count 7) Violence to life, health, and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment. (Count 8) Other inhumane acts. (Count 9) Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities. (Count 10). Enslavement. (Count 11) Pillage.

Taylor was said by the Prosecution to have used his superior position and “command and control” powers over the rebel forces to commit the above crimes. Yet, curiously, regarding the most serious matters on the charge sheet, especially concerning “joint criminal enterprise”, the Court said in its verdict:

“The indictment charges the accused with the crimes referred to in Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the [Court’s] Statute as alleged in the indictment, which crimes amounted to or were involved within a common plan, design or purpose in which the accused participated, or were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of such common plan, design or purpose.

“…The Trial Chamber found that the Prosecution failed to prove that any of the three alleged meetings in Libya, Burkina Faso and Voinjama, where the common plan was said to have been established, took place.

“Furthermore, while the Trial Chamber found that the accused provided significant operational and military support to the RUF, particularly after he became president of Liberia, the evidence does not establish that this support was provided pursuant to a common plan in the context of a joint criminal enterprise.

“Accordingly, the Trial Chamber finds that the Prosecution has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is criminally responsible by virtue of having participated in a common plan, design or purpose to commit the crimes alleged in the indictment.”

Command and control

Regarding the charge of “command and control”, the Court said (and the following is quoted verbatim from the judgement for the purposes of historical record): “The indictment charges that the accused is individually criminally responsible for the crimes referred to in the indictment by virtue of holding positions of superior responsibility and exercising command and control over subordinate members of the RUF, AFRC, RUF/AFRC Junta or alliance, and/or Liberian fighters.

“It is alleged that the accused is responsible for the criminal acts of his subordinates in that he knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such acts or had done so, and the accused failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof.

“Article 6(3) [of the Statute] holds a superior criminally responsible if the superior knew or had reason to know that his or her subordinate was about to commit crimes prohibited by the Statute or had done so, and the superior failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or punish the perpetrators.

“It must thus be demonstrated that the superior had effective command and control over his subordinates, that is, the material ability to prevent or punish the commission of the offence.

“The Trial Chamber is of the view that the accused had substantial influence over the leadership of the RUF, and to a lesser extent that of the AFRC. However, that substantial influence over the conduct of others fell short of effective command and control as demonstrated by the evidence.

“The evidence establishes that from 1990 to March 1997, Sankoh was the sole leader of the RUF and that he did not take orders from the accused. When Sankoh was arrested in March 1997, he appointed [Sam] Bockarie to lead the RUF and instructed him to take direction from the accused.

“The Trial Chamber finds that the accused gave guidance, advice, and direction to Bockarie and to his successor Issa Sesay, but that the evidence does not establish that either of them was a subordinate of the accused, nor that the accused had effective command and control over the RUF during their respective tenures.

“Similarly, the Trial Chamber finds that the accused gave guidance, advice, and direction to Johnny Paul Koroma when he was leader of the RUF/AFRC Junta, but the evidence does not establish that he was a subordinate of the accused, nor that the accused had effective command and control over the RUF/AFRC Junta.

“With regard to Liberian fighters who were found to have participated in the commission of crimes, the Trial Chamber finds that even if they were sent to Sierra Leone by the accused, there is insufficient evidence to find beyond a reasonable doubt that they remained under the effective command and control of the accused once in Sierra Leone.

“The Trial Chamber accordingly finds that the Prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is individually criminally responsible under Article 6(3) for the crimes referred to in Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Statute as alleged in the indictment.”

Ordering

And that was not all. Regarding the charge of “ordering” (or Taylor having ordered his alleged subordinates in the RUF, AFRC and RUF/AFRC Junta to commit crimes in Sierra Leone), the Court said:

“The Trial Chamber has found that while the accused held a position of authority amongst the RUF and RUF/AFRC, the instructions and guidance which he gave to the RUF and RUF/AFRC were generally of an advisory nature and at times were, in fact, not followed by the RUF/AFRC leadership. For these reasons, the Trial Chamber finds that the accused cannot be held responsible for ordering the commission of crimes.”

The Court again was of the same view regarding “instigation” of the crimes. According to the judgement: “The Trial Chamber, having already found that the accused is criminally responsible for aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes in counts 1 to 11 of the indictment, does not find that the accused also instigated those crimes.”

Guilty on all counts?

So if Taylor did not engage in a “joint criminal enterprise” with others to create and implement a plan to take over Sierra Leone and exploit its diamond resources; if he did not have effective “command and control” over the RUF, AFRC, and RUF/AFRC Junta; if he did not “order” the RUF, AFRC, and RUF/AFRC Junta to commit the crimes listed in the indictment; and if he did not “instigate” the commission of the crimes, how then was he found guilty on all the counts in the indictment, and not only on some of them? Was it a means to deny him a lesser jail sentence?

This is how the Court explained it away in the judgement:

“The Trial Chamber finds that the chapeau requirements in respect of the crimes against humanity, violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II and other serious violations of international humanitarian law charged in the indictment have been proved by the Prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.

“The Trial Chamber finds that the Prosecution has [also] proved beyond a reasonable doubt that members of the RUF, AFRC, RUF/AFRC Junta or alliance, and Liberian fighters subjected civilians to cruel treatment, including amputations of limbs [between 30 November 1996 and 18 January 2002, the indictment period].

“[They also] committed widespread acts of outrages upon the personal dignity of civilian women and girls by acts such as forcing them to undress in public and by raping them and committing other acts of sexual abuse, sometimes in full view of the public and family members, in various locations in Sierra Leone.”

Taylor’s role before 1996

Here, for the purpose of historical record, it is necessary to quote verbatim from the Court’s judgement. Regarding Taylor’s role in the RUF rebel war before 1996, the Court said:

“The Trial Chamber has considered evidence prior to the indictment period only for the purposes of clarifying the context or establishing by inference the elements of criminal conduct that occurred during the material period, or demonstrating a consistent pattern of conduct.

“Evidence before the Trial Chamber establishes the following: At the end of the 1980s, a number of West African revolutionaries were trained in Libya, including Charles Taylor from Liberia; Ali Kabbah and Foday Sankoh from Sierra Leone; and Kukoi Samba Sanyang, also known as Dr Manneh, from the Gambia.

“Although Taylor denied meeting Sankoh in Libya, the Court believes that he did. However, contrary to the Prosecution’s submissions, the evidence did not establish that prior to 1996, Taylor, Sankoh, and Dr Manneh participated in any common plan involving the crimes alleged in the indictment, nor in fact that the three men even met together.

“Furthermore, the evidence was that during the pre-indictment period, Sankoh operated independently of the accused and that while he relied at times on Taylor’s guidance and support, Sankoh did not take orders from the accused.

“During the pre-indictment period, the accused provided the RUF with a training camp in Liberia, instructors, recruits and material support including food and other supplies.

“However, again contrary to the Prosecution’s submissions, the evidence did not establish that the RUF were under the superior authority of the accused or the NPFL chain of command or that they were instructed in NPFL terror tactics. [The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), was Taylor’s rebel group on whose back he came to power in Liberia].

“[And even though] the accused supported the invasion of Sierra Leone in March 1991 [and] NPFL troops actively participated in the invasion, the Prosecution failed to prove that the accused participated in the planning of the invasion.

“The Prosecution also failed to prove that the support of the accused for the invasion of Sierra Leone was undertaken pursuant to a common purpose to terrorise the civilian population of Sierra Leone.

“Rather, the evidence shows that the accused and Sankoh had a common interest in fighting common enemies, namely ULIMO, a Liberian insurgency group in Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leonean government forces which supported ULIMO.

“The accused withdrew his NPFL troops from Sierra Leone after the fallout between NPFL and RUF troops in 1992, culminating in Operations Top 20, Top 40, and Top Final. While the Defence maintains that the accused had no further contact or co-operation with Sankoh, after 1992 following Top Final, the Trial Chamber finds otherwise.”

Taylor’s role after 1996

Having settled the oft-repeated allegations in the world media, and in fact by the Prosecution in and outside the Court, that the RUF was somehow a clone of Taylor’s NPFL which he created and used to fight a proxy war for diamonds in Sierra Leone, the Court turned its attention to Taylor’s role in the conflict during the indictment period (30 November 1996 to 8 January 2002). Regarding “military operations” post-1996, the Court said: “In February 1998, ECOMOG forces [the Ecowas peacekeepers] intervened in Sierra Leone and expelled the RUF/AFRC Junta from Freetown reinstating Tejan Kabbah’s SLPP government to power in March 1998.

“Although ECOMOG initially forced the RUF and AFRC forces to withdraw from Kono, under the orders of the AFRC leader, Johnny Paul Koroma, these forces managed to recapture Koidu Town in late February-early March 1998.

“A few weeks later, ECOMOG forces regained control of Koidu Town. In mid-June 1998, forces under the ultimate direction of Sam Bockarie, who had by then assumed leadership of the renegade RUF/AFRC Junta forces, made another attempt to retake Koidu Town, codenamed Operation Fitti-Fatta. The Fitti-Fatta attack was unsuccessful and in late November/early December 1998, after a trip by Bockarie to Liberia where he met with the accused, a meeting was held at Waterworks in which Bockarie ordered RUF/AFRC troops under his command to carry out a two-pronged attack on Kono and Kenema, with Freetown as the ultimate target.

“The attacks on Kenema and Kono were launched in mid-December 1998. While the former was unsuccessful, the latter attack succeeded and the RUF/AFRC troops continued towards Freetown. On 6 January 1999, a group of predominantly AFRC troops led by Alex Tamba Brima, also known as Gullit, launched an assault on Freetown.

“From the time of the ECOMOG intervention, the accused and his subordinates communicated to the RUF/AFRC forces the imperative to maintain control over Kono, a diamondiferous area.

“When the RUF/AFRC forces were pulling out of Kono during the intervention, the radio station of Benjamin Yeaten, director of the accused’s Special Security Service (SSS), intercepted a radio transmission between RUF/AFRC radio stations about the withdrawal and intervened to ask why the forces were withdrawing.

“Then, in several satellite phone conversations with Johnny Paul Koroma, who was trying to make arrangements to get to Liberia by helicopter, the accused told Koroma to capture Kono.

“After a first failed attempt, the accused gave instructions for a second attack which led to the ultimate recapture of Koidu Town in Kono District in late February, early March 1998. Once Kono had been recaptured, the accused told Bockarie to be sure to maintain control of Kono for the purpose of trading diamonds with him for arms and ammunition…

“In addition to urging the RUF and AFRC to capture and hold Kono, the accused supplied arms and ammunition for the operations in the Kono District in early 1998 and for Operation Fitti-Fatta.

“In November and December 1998, when Bockarie met with the accused in Monrovia, the accused jointly designed with Bockarie a two-pronged attack on Kono, Kenema, and Freetown, outlined by Bockarie to his commanders in a meeting at Waterworks on his return to Sierra Leone.

“Although the idea to advance towards Freetown was already in discussion when Bockarie went to Monrovia, the accused emphasised to Bockarie the need to first attack Kono District and told Bockarie to make the operation ‘fearful’ in order to pressure the government of Sierra Leone into negotiations on the release of Foday Sankoh from prison, as well as to use ‘all means’ to get to Freetown.

“Subsequently, Bockarie named the operation, ‘Operation No Living Thing’, implying that anything that stood in their way should be eliminated. [The rebel forces] followed the Bockarie/Taylor plan as had been contemplated by Bockarie and the accused.

“[Again] the accused gave advice to Bockarie and received updates in relation to the progress of the operations in Kono and Freetown in the implementation of their plan. Bockarie was in frequent contact via radio or satellite phone with the accused in December 1998 and January 1999, either directly or through Benjamin Yeaten. 

“Of the instructions allegedly given to Bockarie by the accused during this period, only one was proved beyond reasonable doubt, that being that the accused instructed Bockarie to transfer some of the Pademba Road prisoners to Buedu. [However] this finding is insufficient to establish, as the Prosecution has alleged, that the accused directed or had control over the Kono and Freetown operations in December 1998 and January 1999.”

Military support

“In addition to planning and advising on the Kono-Freetown operation, the accused also provided military and other support [to the rebel forces]. He facilitated the purchase and transport of a large shipment of arms and ammunition from Burkina Faso in around November 1998 which was used in the attacks on Kono and Kenema in December 1998, where further arms and ammunition were captured… The shipment from Burkina Faso was unprecedented in volume…

“Significantly, the RUF/AFRC heavily and frequently relied on the materiel supplied and facilitated by the accused. The accused’s support often satisfied a need or request for materiel at a particular time, and shipments of materiel supplied by or facilitated by [him] often contributed to and were causally linked to the capture of further supplies by the RUF and AFRC. [In effect], the materiel provided or facilitated by the accused was critical in enabling the operational strategy of the RUF and the AFRC during the indictment period…

Operational support

Continuing the assistance that Taylor gave the rebels under the subhead of “operational support”, the Court said:

“The Trial Chamber [also] finds that from 1998 to 2001, the accused provided [a guesthouse which acted as] a base for the RUF in Monrovia, equipped with a long-range radio and telephone, RUF radio operators, SSS security supervised by Benjamin Yeaten, cooks and a caretaker.

“Although the guesthouse was used by RUF members partly for matters relevant to the peace process or for diplomatic purposes, it was also used to facilitate the transfer of arms, ammunition and funds directly from the accused to the RUF, and the delivery of diamonds from the RUF directly to the accused, belying his testimony that he was entirely unaware of what occurred at the guesthouse… [These] transactions played a vital role in the military operations of the RUF in which crimes were committed.”

Diamonds

The Court then turned its attention to the supply of diamonds, which was said to be Taylor’s main motive of creating a “joint criminal enterprise” with others to take over Sierra Leone. In the judgement, the Court said: “The Trial Chamber finds that there was a continuous supply by the RUF/AFRC of diamonds mined from areas in Sierra Leone to the accused, often in exchange for arms and ammunition.

“During the period May 1997 to February 1998, diamonds mined in Kono and Tongo fields were delivered from the AFRC/RUF to the accused by Daniel Tamba … in exchange for arms and ammunition. Following the ECOMOG intervention from February 1998 to July 1999, the diamonds delivered to the accused by Sam Bockarie directly, as well as indirectly through intermediaries, were given to him in order to get arms and ammunition from him or sometimes for ‘safekeeping’ on behalf of the RUF.

“From July 1999 to May 2000, Foday Sankoh delivered diamonds to the accused; and diamonds were delivered to the accused on Sankoh’s behalf in or before 1999 while he was in detention. From June 2000 until the end of the hostilities in 2002, Issa Sesay [also] delivered to the accused, including on one occasion a 36-carat diamond. Eddie Kanneh also delivered diamonds to the accused on Sesay’s behalf…”

The peace process

Regarding Taylor’s role in the Sierra Leone peace process, the Court found that: “The accused instructed Foday Sankoh to participate in the Abidjan peace talks from March to November 1996 in order to obtain ammunition and materiel for the RUF. The evidence established that while in Abidjan, Sankoh obtained arms and ammunition for the RUF using funds from Libya. However, the evidence was insufficient to establish that Sankoh used contacts of the accused to obtain arms and ammunition in Abidjan.

“The accused [also] played an active role in the Lomé peace negotiations, which role the Prosecution alleged to be subversive, suggesting that the accused improperly assisted and advised the RUF delegation before and during the negotiations so as to procure the most favourable outcome for the RUF/AFRC and himself.

“The Trial Chamber did not find this to be the case in the absence of evidence that the accused controlled the RUF delegation or dictated the outcome of the negotiations.

“However, the evidence established that the accused was engaged in arms transactions at the same time that he was involved in the peace negotiations in Lomé, publicly promoting peace at the Lomé negotiations while privately providing arms and ammunitions to the RUF … This clandestine undermining of the peace process by the accused occurred even when he knew that an arms embargo by the UN and ECOWAS was in force in the region …”

Legal findings

So what was Taylor’s real responsibility in all this? The Court said: “…Taken accumulatively and having regard to the military support provided by the accused to the RUF/AFRC, the Trial Chamber finds that the practical assistance, encouragement, and moral support provided by the accused had a substantial effect on the commission of crimes by the RUF/AFRC during the course of military operations in Sierra Leone.”

It continued: “The essential mental element required for aiding and abetting is that the accused knew that his acts would assist the commission of the crime by the perpetrator or that he was aware of the substantial likelihood that his acts would assist the commission of a crime by the perpetrator… The Trial Chamber is satisfied that as of August 1997, the accused knew of the atrocities committed against civilians in Sierra Leone by the RUF/AFRC forces and of their propensity to commit crimes. Notwithstanding such knowledge, the accused continued to provide support to the RUF and RUF/AFRC forces during the period that crimes were being committed in Sierra Leone.

“The Trial Chamber therefore finds beyond reasonable doubt that the accused knew that his support to the RUF/AFRC would provide practical assistance, encouragement or moral support to them in the commission of crimes during the course of their military operations in Sierra Leone.

“For the foregoing reasons, the Trial Chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is criminally responsible … for aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes set forth in counts 1 to 11 of the indictment.”

Planning

Regarding the charge of “planning” the crimes, the Court said: “Criminal responsibility requires that the accused, alone or with others, intentionally planned the criminal conduct constituting the crimes charged, with the intent that a crime be committed in the execution of that plan, or with the awareness of the substantial likelihood that a crime would be committed in the execution of that plan.

“The Trial Chamber found that in November 1998, Sam Bockarie and the accused designed a two-pronged attack on Kono and Kenema, with Freetown as the ultimate destination… In the course of the implementation of this plan, a small contingent of troops led by Idrissa Kamara, reached Freetown and Bockarie’s forces got to the outskirts of Freetown … [where they] committed the crimes [listed] in the indictment… In these circumstances, the Trial Chamber finds that the Bockarie/Taylor plan substantially contributed to the commission of the crimes…

“Moreover, by his instruction to make the operation fearful, which was repeated many times by Bockarie during the course of the Freetown invasion and by his instruction to use all means, the accused demonstrated his awareness of the substantial likelihood that crimes would be committed in the execution of the plan.

“For the foregoing reasons, the Trial Chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is criminally responsible … for planning the crimes committed by members of the RUF, AFRC, RUF/AFRC Junta and Liberian fighters in the attacks on Kono and Makeni, in the invasion of Freetown, and during the retreat from Freetown.”

Fate sealed

With this, Taylor’s fate has effectively been sealed. Though he had lined up his Appeal Team long before the verdict was announced (to be headed not by Courtenay Griffiths, who led the defence team, but by the Nigerian lawyer, Morris Anyah, a member of the defence team), judging from the record of the Appeals Chamber, where no one has yet won an appeal against a sentence handed down by a Trial Chamber, and considering the personal animosity that some of the appeal judges have for Taylor, he will not be returning to his home in Monrovia for a very long time. On 30 May, he may not get the 80 years that the Prosecution is asking for, but a very long sentence awaits him nonetheless.

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