Monday, November 17, 2014

Jalloh: The Trial of President Charles Taylor

Charles Chernor Jalloh (Florida International Univ. - Law) has posted The Trial of President Charles Taylor (in Cambridge Companion to International Criminal Law, William A. Schabas ed., forthcoming). Here's the abstract:

This chapter discusses a rare successful prosecution of a head of state by a modern international criminal court. The case involved former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Taylor, who was charged and tried by the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (“SCSL”), was convicted in April 2013 for planning and aiding and abetting war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious international humanitarian law violations. He was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. The SCSL Appeals Chamber upheld the historic conviction and sentence in September 2013. Taylor is currently serving his sentence in Britain.

This paper from an insider, who worked as an interim court-appointed defense attorney during the opening of the trial in The Hague in June 2007, is the first to evaluate this significant international case since it concluded. The author exposes the numerous controversies that dogged the trial of Liberia’s former president - from the questions that arose about how best to sequence peace and justice following the prosecution’s initial unveiling of his judicially-sealed indictment through to concerns about whether he should be tried in the heart of Europe, as opposed to Africa, to the completion of appeals.

He concludes that the trial of President Taylor is significant for the SCSL because he was the most high profile and thus most elusive suspect to be indicted by the court. Although it may be too early to draw definitive conclusions, a key lesson that we can derive for international criminal justice is that the indictment of a sitting president for international crimes may sometimes help loosen his grip on power, thereby enabling his subsequent prosecution.