Chuckie Taylor, ex-Liberian terror chief, convicted in landmark torture case

A jury for the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Oct. 31 found Charles McArthur Emmanuel AKA Chuckie Taylor Jr., son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, guilty on charges of involvement in torture and other crimes in Liberia and Sierra Leone between 1999 and 2002. Emmanuel, a US citizen raised in Boston, had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was the first person indicted under a 1994 federal anti-torture law known as the “extraterritorial statute,” which allows people living within the US to be charged for acts of torture abroad.

Both rights groups and US prosecutors applauded the conviction. In a Department of Justice press release US Attorney General Michael Mukasey said:

Today’s conviction provides a measure of justice to those who were victimized by the reprehensible acts of Charles Taylor Jr. and his associates… It sends a powerful message to human rights violators around the world that, when we can, we will hold them fully accountable for their crimes.

Emmanuel was found guilty of all eight charges included in his 2006 indictment, including five counts of torture, one count of using a firearm to commit a violent crime, and two related conspiracy charges. His sentencing is set for January, and he faces as much as life in prison.

In July, US District Judge Cecilia Altonaga upheld the torture charges, rejecting Emmanuel’s argument that the extraterritorial statute exceeds Congressional authority because it criminalizes behavior of foreign government officials outside the jurisdiction of the US. Last December, a federal judge denied bail for Emmanuel, ruling that he was a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Under his father’s dictatorship, Emmanuel headed Liberia’s ironically dubbed Anti-Terrorism Unit, known by its less euphemistic nickname as the Demon Forces. Among its methods were cutting genitals, searing flaming plastic into a victim’s skin, and forcing victims to play “stone football”—kicking large stones until their bare feet were bruised and bleeding. (Jurist, The Guardian, Reuters, Oct. 31)

See our last post on West Africa.