“Chuckie” Taylor and torture prosecutions


in Bombs and rockets, Law, Politics, Security

An American court has convicted the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for committing torture, sentencing him to 97 years in prison. “Chuckie” Taylor led a paramilitary unit during the time when his father was in power. His father is currently on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. If there is any fairness in the world, “Chuckie” should eventually have some senior Bush administration officials for cellmates

The illegality of torture under international law is unambiguous. It doesn’t depend on which statutes a particular state has ratified; further, there are no exemptions granted for heads of state, senior officials, or people acting in a professional capacity. It certainly is not a legal defence to claim that the torture was necessary for purposes of national security or preventing terrorism.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon January 12, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Was he convicted for actually torturing people with his own hands, or for ordering others to do so?

. January 12, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Pulling back the blanket

Jul 10th 2008
From The Economist print edition
The rules that protected world leaders from prosecution are being rewritten

“THERE is no longer any doubt as to whether the current [Bush] administration has committed war crimes,” Antonio Taguba, a retired American general who conducted the first investigation into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, declares in a new report on the maltreatment of detainees: “The only question that remains is…whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Bringing bigwigs to justice

Jan 10th 2008
From The Economist print edition
Heads of state, past and present, are increasingly being brought to book for crimes committed while in office

Emily January 12, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Obama has been talking about shutting down Guantanamo as soon as he assumes power. It seems to be yet another reason to be encouraged by the new US administration.


Having at least 4 years of Obama making peace with the world through these kinds of gestures seems like a great reason to celebrate on the 20th.

Milan January 12, 2009 at 6:58 pm


According to the BBC article linked: “At his US trial, Chuckie Taylor was accused of committing or conspiring to commit executions, imprisoning a group of individuals in a hole in the ground, burning victims and administering electric shocks.”

I am not sure if ordering someone else to commit torture would have left him vulnerable to conviction under the same US law.


Obama certainly has an opportunity to clean its hands in the eyes of the world. Closing Guantanamo would be a very good step, but it still does nothing about the top officials who ignored their own legal advisors and authorized torture.

If Obama was really bold, he would seek some high level convictions for those who served in the last US administration.

Milan January 12, 2009 at 7:00 pm

In this previous post, I talk about the New York Times editorial that in turn called for just such an approach from the incoming Obama administration (while recognizing that it was very unlikely).

Anon January 13, 2009 at 11:05 am

Seeking prosecutions could be very politically risky for Obama.

It could leave the Republicans during the next election saying: “We were focused on doing everything to protect American citizens, whereas Obama was more concerned with partisan politics and ensuring the comfort of those determined to slay Americans.”

The Iraq war shows how much collateral damage the American public is willing to accept in the name of ‘security.’

. January 14, 2009 at 10:40 am

Bush official: we tortured Gitmo detainee
Posted by Cory Doctorow, January 13, 2009 11:41 PM

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.

. January 15, 2009 at 5:08 pm

The Turning Point
How the Susan Crawford interview changes everything we know about torture.
By Dahlia Lithwick and Phillipe SandsPosted Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, at 7:44 PM ET

Under the 1984 Torture Convention, its 146 state parties (including the United States) are under an obligation to “ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law.” These states must take any person alleged to have committed torture (or been complicit or participated in an act of torture) who is present in their territories into custody. The convention allows no exceptions, as Sen. Pinochet discovered in 1998. The state party to the Torture Convention must then submit the case to its competent authorities for prosecution or extradition for prosecution in another country.

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