Chuckie Taylor convicted of torture

Chuckie Taylor, son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, was found guilty of torture and related crimes by a US court on Thursday 30 October.

Taylor could face between 20 years to life imprisonment for the crimes he committed in Liberia, while serving as the head of the former Liberian President’s Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU). These include the use of electric shocks on the genitals, burning victims with cigarettes and hot irons and melting plastic and rubbing salt into wounds.

According to media reports, sentencing is scheduled for 9 January 2009. The charges Taylor was convicted on cover acts of torture between 1999 and 2003.

This is the first conviction under the US Torture Victim Protection Act since that law was enacted in 1994. Chuckie Taylor is also the first person to be tried and convicted for crimes under international law committed during Liberia’s decade-long conflict, which ended in 2003.

The trial of Chuckie Taylor (also known as Roy Belfast, Jr, Charles Taylor II and Charles MacArthur Emmanuel) started on 28 September 2008 in Miami, where he was originally arrested for passport fraud, before the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The federal anti-torture statute authorizes US Federal courts to exercise universal jurisdiction over persons found in the US who are suspected of torture committed anywhere in the world. The statute applies to US citizens and to those present in the United States, regardless of nationality and regardless where the crimes occurred.

Chuckie’s trial took place at the same time that his father, Charles Taylor, was on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. The former president faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have committed in Sierra Leone.

Liberia was embroiled in conflict characterized by war crimes and crimes against humanity between 1989 and 2003. In 2006 a new government came to power. To date, however, no one in Liberia has been investigated and prosecuted for torture or any other crime under international law.

In addition, the Liberian government has failed to enact the necessary legislation defining torture as a crime under national law consistently with the definition in the Convention against Torture. Amnesty International believes that just as prosecutors in the USA have now started to fulfil their responsibilities under the Convention against Torture to investigate and prosecute those alleged to have committed crimes against Liberians, the Liberian government, should without delay, enact the necessary legislation and implement it.