Charles Taylor’s Trial Set to Begin

Charles Taylor’s Trial Set to Begin

Charles Taylor’s trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone is set to begin on Monday. The trial, which is expected to last between 12 and 18 months, may not be the trial of the century, but it is certainly a landmark: Taylor is the first president of an African country to be tried for serious international crimes by an internationalized criminal court.

Human Rights Watch provides the following summary of the charges:

  • 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.

Taylor is being charged with individual criminal responsibility for the crimes on several legal bases. First, Taylor allegedly participated in the commission of the crimes by planning, instigating, and ordering them; aiding and abetting them by providing military training and support to the RUF and AFRC; and participating in the execution of a plan to take control of Sierra Leone during which the crimes were committed. Second, he allegedly 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.

Although Taylor’s trial will be held in the Hague due to security concerns, the SCSL is doing its best to ensure that West Africans will be able to follow the trial:

  • Facilitating attendance of journalists and civil society representatives from Liberia and Sierra Leone on a rotating basis at proceedings in The Hague;
  • Preparing video and audio summaries of Taylor’s trial for dissemination throughout Sierra Leone; and
  • Making broadcasts of Taylor’s trial available at the court’s premises in Freetown.

If convicted — which is highly likely — Taylor will be imprisoned in the UK.

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