Liberia’s Taylor Denied COVID-19 Jail Move

 

 

Judges have rejected a bid by Liberian ex-president and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor to be moved from a British jail, where he claimed he risks dying from coronavirus.

Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence at Frankland prison near Durham in northeastern England after being convicted in 2012 by a court in The Hague of fuelling civil conflict in Sierra Leone.

The warlord had argued that due to a “massive outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK” his life was at risk from continued detention in Britain and that he wanted to be moved to a “safe third country”.

But the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone said in a statement late Monday that “Taylor had failed to comply with court directions that he specify which countries he considered safe.”

The court said Teresa Doherty, the duty judge dealing with Taylor’s application, “noted that the World Health Organization has not declared any place in the world safe from COVID-19”.

Taylor’s claims that his prison was overcrowded and offered bad conditions were also “at variance with facts”, the judge found.

Taylor lost a previous bid to be allowed to serve the remainder of his term in an African jail in 2015.

Taylor was the first former head of state to be jailed by an international court since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in Germany after World War II.

He was convicted in 2012 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity over acts committed by Sierra Leone rebels he aided and abetted during the war.

The residual court is the successor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was established by the UN in 2002 to try those who bore “the greatest responsibility” for the atrocities committed during the civil war.

AFP

UK Judge Dismisses Torture Case Against Charles Taylor’s Ex-Wife

UK To Boost African Partnership With £30m

 

A British judge on Friday dismissed torture charges against the ex-wife of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor, relating to the west African country’s bitter civil war.

Agnes Taylor, 54, had denied accusations of being involved in the torture of a child and conspiring to use rape to torture women during the conflict in the 1990s.

Prosecutors alleged that all seven offences were committed when she was “a public official or person acting in an official capacity”, and were linked to her “official duties”.

Taylor, a former lecturer at Coventry University in central England and whose address was given as Dagenham, east London, had been due to go on trial in January next year.

But judge Nigel Sweeney, sitting at the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court in London, threw out the case following legal argument. The prosecution indicated it would not appeal.

The judge did not read out his ruling in open court.

But he said she could not be charged with torture as a crime against humanity or a war crime because the alleged offences took place before relevant legislation was introduced.

Taylor, who left Liberia in 1992 and divorced her husband four years later, followed proceedings via video-link from prison, where she has been held on remand.

Her ex-husband was Liberian president from 1997 to 2003. He is currently serving 50 years in a British jail for his role in fueling civil conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Taylor was the first former head of state to be jailed by an international court since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in Germany after World War II.

He was convicted in 2012 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity over acts committed by Sierra Leone rebels he aided and abetted during the war.

He was transferred to Britain in 2013.

His ex-wife was accused of acting in a de facto official capacity for the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), which the president is said to have set up.

Judge Sweeney said the key issue in the case was whether at the time of the alleged offences, the NPFL was actually in charge of the relevant areas and exercising “official or quasi-official functions or powers which a government or governmental organisation would exercise”.

He rejected prosecution assertions that the group, in rounding up, detaining, torturing and killing civilians, was carrying out the functions of a government.

AFP

Liberia’s Wartime Ghosts Return To Haunt Election

(FILES) This file photograph taken on July 14, 1990, shows Charles Taylor (C/dark glasses), helps to carry one of his injured fighters in the outskirts of Monrovia. Dekergar Duko, a lean father-of-two who crushes rocks for a living, often reminisces during his days of backbreaking labour about the times under Liberia’s warlord-turned-president, Charles Taylor. Photo: PASCAL GUYOT / AFP

Dekergar Duko, a lean father-of-two who crushes rocks for a living, often reminisces during his days of backbreaking labour about his life under Liberia’s warlord-turned-president, Charles Taylor.

Living in a hovel metres (yards) away from the so-called “College of Knowledge” where the dreaded strongman trained child soldiers to kill, Duko recalls when times were so much more comfortable.

“I really wish for our former president to be back with us,” Duko says. “In Taylor’s day, at least we were growing.”

Duko’s image of Taylor as a caring, decisive man — he would alter the price of a sack of rice with a simple declaration on the radio — contrasts starkly with the reputation of a man who fuelled conflicts across several countries, leaving hundreds of thousands dead.

But, in Bong county, one man’s war criminal is often another man’s hero. It was from here that Taylor, 69, launched attacks in his rebel days and where his sprawling farm still remains. In his pomp, the county and its people were cossetted.

The man himself is gone, but as key wartime figures and their associates cement a grip on positions of power, prosecutions for Liberia’s back-to-back civil wars in 1989-2003 that killed an estimated 250,000 people are slipping further away, experts say.

Meanwhile Taylor’s ex-wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor, could well become vice-president on the ticket of footballing icon George Weah in a run-off election to be held on December 26, while former rebel leader turned politician Prince Johnson has pledged them his support.

– Taylor ‘did his best’ –

Many families living in Bong county, or in Johnson’s stronghold county of Nimba, lost jobs and protection when Liberia’s civil wars ended. For them, 12 years of living under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf often compares unfavourably.

Duko, who is supporting a wife and two children on a meagre income, complains that essentials have in some cases tripled in price since the Taylor era.

“He was fighting war and at the same time sustaining the Liberian people,” echoed insurance company employee Eddie Dahn, who lives in the Bong county capital of Gbarnga, explaining how Taylor helped protect Bong and provided employment on his farm.

Dahn said Taylor “did his best” — a view not shared by the international community.

Taylor is currently serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes in a British jail cell, although he was convicted of funding rebel groups in Sierra Leone, not the recruitment of child soldiers, killings, rape and pillaging of which he is accused at home.

“Liberia’s lack of effort and progress in holding to account individuals responsible for horrific human rights violations and war crimes is deeply disappointing,” said Human Rights Watch’s Corinne Dufka, who helped gather evidence that led to Taylor’s prosecution.

– No prosecutions –

Other ghosts from Liberia’s harrowing past sit in the Senate, head major companies, and even preach from the pulpit on Sundays.

Yet not a single sentence for wartime offences has been handed down in the country.

Johnson, who was filmed laughing and drinking beer as his band of ragtag rebels savagely tortured ex-president Samuel Doe to death in 1990, is now a senator, recent presidential candidate, and born-again preacher.

Benoni Urey, another presidential candidate who served as head of the lucrative Bureau of Maritime Affairs during the Taylor presidency, became one of Liberia’s richest men through contracts awarded to his telecoms firm Lonestar Cell.

As Urey himself noted in an interview this year, several ministers in Sirleaf’s cabinets have also served under Taylor. Sirleaf was one of the prominent Liberians abroad who had endorsed Taylor when his ragtag army seized large parts of the country.

Uriah Mitchell, head of programmes and production at Radio Gbarnga, believes the impunity of those involved in the war is holding Liberia back.

“People who really brought down grievous crimes and who were involved in the issue of the war need to be prosecuted,” he told AFP in his stuffy studio, adding that instead they have been “rewarded”.

For all the fuss over Taylor and Johnson’s support of Weah, his rival for the presidency, current Vice-President Joseph Boakai, has received backing from former Taylor associate and telecoms magnate Urey.

– Her own woman? –

The most complex figure in the debate over Liberia’s past and political present is former First Lady Howard-Taylor, who was not in Liberia during the war and has never been accused of any crime but was subject to a UN travel ban that was only lifted in 2012.

She was a surprise vice-presidential pick by Weah, who played professional football throughout the war and returned in the mid-2000s. Weah now says the country “needs to move on” from its obsession with her husband.

Questions over Howard-Taylor and Weah’s ongoing links with Taylor have dogged the election after the former AC Milan ace admitted speaking to him in prison in January.

Regardless, Weah saw a 30-point boost in his numbers in Bong county — the country’s third biggest constituency where Howard-Taylor serves as a senator — during the first round of the election on October 10, compared with his first run for the presidency in 2005.

James Youtee-Mace, chairperson of the Bong County Athletic and Social-Intellectual Center in Gbarnga, said Howard-Taylor had fought to bring money for education and development to the area.

“I think she has done well, that’s why she has been elected twice,” he said defensively.

AFP

Charles Taylor Asks To Serve Term In Rwanda

Charle taylorFormer Liberian President, Charles Taylor, has asked to serve his war crimes sentence in Rwanda, noting that serving the jail term in the UK will deprive him of his human rights.

An Act of Parliament was passed to allow Taylor to serve his sentence in the UK following Taylor’s sentencing in 2012.

Advocating his case, Taylor’s lawyer, John Jones noted that Taylor’s wife and his children have been unable to visit him in the country, since his arrest.

He stated that “what we are saying is the UK has a duty to ensure family life, not just for him but for his family.

“It is a clear duty under international law and English domestic law”, he said, pointing out that, the UK would save money if Taylor was transferred to his home country.

“He is not suing the British Government, he is not seeking damages from the UK and, on the contrary, for the UK taxpayer it would be much, much cheaper if he were to serve his sentence in Rwanda with all the other prisoners from the special court,” he said.

Mr Jones said visas have not been granted to members of Taylor’s family as immigration officials were “not satisfied that they are going to return to Liberia after their visit to see him, which was ridiculous”. He emphasised.

Charles Taylor is to serve 50 years in prison, after being found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, in April 2012.

 

 

 

 

Liberia’s Charles Taylor Loses Appeal Against War Crimes Conviction

Charles Taylor lost his appeal against a war-crimes conviction on Thursday as judges confirmed a 50-year jail term against the Liberian ex-president for encouraging rebels in Sierra Leone to mutilate, rape and murder victims in its civil war.

Presiding Judge George Gelaga King said Taylor had aided and abetted crimes committed by Revolutionary United Front and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council rebels, advising and assisting them while knowing well the kinds of crimes they were committing.

“Their primary purpose was to spread terror. Brutal violence was purposefully unleashed against civilians with the purpose of making them afraid, afraid that there would be more violence if they continued to resist,” he said.

“Governments and the international community were also afraid that unless the RUF and the AFRC demands were met, thousands more killings, mutilations, abductions and rapes of civilians would follow.”

Taylor, 65, dressed in a crisp suit, sat impassively throughout the reading of the appeals judgment at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.

He is the first head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War Two.

Taylor was also found guilty of crimes against humanity committed during the 11-year conflict in Sierra Leone, which killed some 50,000 people and left tens of thousands mutilated, their fingers, hands or limbs chopped off.

Prosecutors said he used the proceeds from so-called blood diamonds mined in the conflict zone to finance his activities, which included advising and helping the rebels.

“This verdict shows no person, no matter how powerful, is above the law,” said Brenda Hollis, the court’s prosecutor.

In Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, victims were jubilant.

“It’s a victory for me against tyranny,” said Edward Conteh, whose hand was cut off by rebels. “I’m happy Charles Taylor is behind bars for 50 years because I’m a victim of the war.”

But Morris Anyah, Taylor’s lead defense lawyer, said Taylor would not have been convicted if he had had a powerful ally.

“If Charles Taylor had had a friend among the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, this case would not have had the traction it has had,” he said, adding that Taylor had received the final verdict with great stoicism.

Britain has agreed Taylor can serve his sentence at one of its maximum-security prisons but Anyah said Taylor hoped to serve his term in Finland, Sweden or Rwanda – the other three countries which have enforcement agreements with the court.

“DIRTY PEBBLES”

During Taylor’s four-year initial trial, judges heard accounts from Sierra Leone civilians who had been mutilated by rebels or who had seen their close relatives murdered.

They also heard evidence from supermodel Naomi Campbell, who was questioned about blood diamonds Taylor was accused of having sent to her hotel room. She described the objects she received as looking like “dirty pebbles.”

In Liberia, Taylor’s supporters denounced the court and its permanent successor, the International Criminal Court.

“This is complete international gangsterism,” said, Cyril Allen, former secretary general of the National Patriotic Party. “The ICC was set up for Africans, to intimidate them and get their resources.”

The very idea of international courts has come under fire across Africa. The ICC has been accused of neo-colonial meddling in Kenya as it pursues cases against its president and deputy president.

Several African states are considering withdrawing from the ICC, which has only ever prosecuted Africans.

Congo warlord jailed for 14 years in landmark case

Delivering its first sentence, the International Criminal Court jailed Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for 14 years on Tuesday for recruiting child soldiers.

The Hague-based court was set up a decade ago to punish and discourage the world’s worst crimes through a system of international justice, but its critics say it has moved too slowly and failed to put its most important suspects on trial.

Lubanga was found guilty in March of abducting boys and girls under the age of 15 and forcing them to fight in a war in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003. At least 60,000 people are thought to have been killed.

“The trial and sentence handed down today sends a strong message to those who recruit and use children during times of war,” said Anneke van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch.

But taking into account the six years Lubanga spent in detention during the trial, Lubanga’s sentence has only eight years to run. He could get parole earlier.

Critics of the International Criminal Court questioned how big an achievement it could claim from sentencing Lubanga.

“If you’d said at the beginning, this court would finish one trial in 10 years, and that would be for a secondary offence like using child soldiers, people would have said they won’t waste their money on it,” said William Schabas, a law professor at Middlesex University.

Some Congolese were also disappointed in Lubanga’s sentence, which compares to the 50 years handed down in May by another court in The Hague to former Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes in Sierra Leone.

“We had hoped he would stay in prison for life in order to ease the minds of the victims,” said Emmanuel Folo, a human rights lawyer in Ituri.

Presiding judge Adrian Fulford criticised the ICC’s founding prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, for his conduct of Lubanga’s case. Ocampo recently completed his term.

Lubanga’s sentence was shortened because of his good behaviour in the face of the prosecutor’s failure to disclose some evidence and giving misleading statements to the media, Fulford said.

Nigerian recounts ordeal in hands of Charles Taylor’s army

A Nigerian, David Anyaele who lost both hands during the Sierra Leone-Liberia war, recounts the events that led to the war and the treatments of Nigerians by former Liberia President, Charles Taylor.

Mr Anyaele who spoke as a guest in Diplomatic Channels – A Channels Television programme, said that while he begged the rebels to spare his hands, the rebels insisted on chopping off both of his hands saying “it is only when the Nigerian government sees my two hands chopped off that they will know that we are serious.”

Hear his experience in video below:

Judges sentence Charles Taylor to 50 years imprisonment

Judges at an international war crimes court have sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison following his landmark conviction for supporting rebels in Sierra Leone who murdered thousands during their country’s brutal civil war in return for blood diamonds.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone found Taylor guilty last month on 11 charges of aiding and abetting the rebels who went on a bloody rampage during the decade-long war that ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead.

Presiding Judge Richard Lussick says the crimes Taylor was convicted of were of the “utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality.”

The 64-year-old warlord-turned-president is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II.

Charles Taylor accuses UN prosecutors of bribery

Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, who was recently convicted by a UN-backed court of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone, has accused the UN prosecutors of paying witnesses to testify against him.

Taylor while addressing a war crime court in Hague ahead of his sentencing on May 30, said, “Witnesses were paid, coerced and in many cases threatened with prosecution if they did not give statements,”

According to him, “I was convinced that unless peace came to Sierra Leone, Liberia could not go forward…my sadness and deepest sympathies at the crimes suffered by victims and their families in Sierra Leone.”

Once one of west Africa’s most powerful men, Taylor was found guilty last month of arming and aiding rebels who killed and mutilated thousands in Sierra Leone during a decade-long civil war that killed 120,000 people.

In return, rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) paid Taylor in so-called “blood diamonds” mined by slave labour.

In a landmark first judgment against a former head of state since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in 1946, Taylor was convicted on all 11 counts against him, including acts of terrorism, murder and rape committed by the RUF.

The court’s chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis recommended an 80-year jail sentence.

“Mr Taylor’s critical role in the entire campaign of terror is deserving an adequate condemnation,” Hollis told the court Wednesday.

“Mr Taylor was the root that aided, abetted and maintained the alliance: without him, the rebel movement would have died sooner” she added.

She said time Taylor had spent behind bars since his arrest in March 2006 and his transfer to The Hague three months later, should be deducted from his sentence, but not the time he spent under house arrest in Nigeria.

Taylor left Liberia in August 2003, to end that country’s civil war,, headed into exile in Nigeria where he lived until his arrest in March 2006 as he tried to flee.

Taylor’s lawyers said the prosecution’s demand was “excessive” and that their client should not be made to carry the blame alone for what happened in Sierra Leone’s war, which ended in 2001.

“Peace would not have come to Sierra Leone but for the efforts of Charles Taylor,” his lawyer Courtenay Griffiths told the hearing in leafy Leidschendam, just outside The Hague.

The trial heard that children under the age of 15 were abducted and conscripted during the conflict, and had the letters “RUF” carved into their foreheads and backs to deter escape.

The RUF rebels were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians.

The trial, which saw supermodel Naomi Campbell testify she had received “dirty” diamonds at a charity ball hosted by former South African president Nelson Mandela in 1997, lasted nearly four years, until March 2011.

Handing down the verdict last month, Judge Richard Lussick stressed that although Taylor had substantial influence over the RUF, including its feared leader Foday Sankoh, “it fell short of command and control” of rebel forces.

Sankoh died in 2003 before he could face trial.

Taylor, Liberia’s president from 1997 to 2003, had dismissed the charges as “lies” and claimed to be the victim of a plot by “powerful countries.”

Authorities in Nigeria arrested Taylor in March 2006 as he tried to flee from exile after being forced to quit Liberia three years earlier, ending that country’s own civil war.

He was transferred to The Hague in 2006 amid security fears should he go on trial in the Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.

Court finds Charles Taylor guilty of war crimes

A United Nations-backed court convicted former Liberian president Charles Taylor of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, the first time a head of state has been found guilty by an international tribunal since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg.

Taylor, 64, had been charged with 11 counts of murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery during intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, during which more than 50,000 people were killed.

The first African leader to stand trial for war crimes, Taylor was accused of directing Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in a campaign of terror to plunder Sierra Leone’s diamond mines for profit and weapons trading.

“The accused is criminally responsible … for aiding and abetting in the crimes,” Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said as he read out the court’s decision.

Taylor was found guilty of providing weapons, food, medical supplies, fuel and equipment to forces in Sierra Leone which committed atrocities, but not of having ordered or planned the crimes.

“The trial chamber finds the accused cannot be held responsible for ordering the crimes… The trial chamber, having already found the accused guilty of aiding and abetting, does not find the accused also instigated these crimes,” the judge said.

Wearing a dark blue suit and maroon tie, Taylor looked calm and subdued as the presiding judge took more than two hours to read out the charges, evidence and final ruling.

The litany of gruesome crimes covered rapes and enslavement, beheadings and disembowellings, amputations and other mutilations carried out by child soldiers notorious for being high on drugs and dressed in fright wigs.

And in return for providing arms and ammunition for the conflict, the judge recounted how Taylor had received “blood diamonds” from Sierra Leone, including a 45-carat diamond and two 25-carat diamonds.

“Taylor’s conviction sends a powerful message that even those in the highest-level positions can be held to account for grave crimes,” Elise Keppler, senior counsel for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Not since Nuremberg has an international or hybrid war crimes court issued a judgment against a current or former head of state. This is a victory for Sierra Leonean victims, and all those seeking justice when the worst abuses are committed.”

Taylor has denied the charges, insisting he tried to bring peace to the region and arguing his trial was a politically motivated conspiracy by Western nations.

But the judge said that “the accused was publicly promoting peace, while privately providing arms to the RUF,” adding that “There was a constant flow … of diamonds from Sierra Leone to the accused, often in exchange for arms and ammunition.”

At the start of the hearing, Taylor seemed relaxed, waving at some people sitting in the public gallery, and separated from the windowless trial chamber by a thick pain of glass.

Later, as the presiding judge’s reading of the judgment appeared to swing against Taylor, the former president clasped his hands more tensely in front of him.

REUTERS