Historic Torture Case against Agnes Taylor Dismissed

Today the Central Criminal Court in London decided that Agnes Taylor (ex-wife of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia and leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL)), who was charged with seven counts of torture and one count of conspiracy to commit torture in relation to her involvement with the NPFL during the First Liberian Civil War, will not face trial in the UK.

Agnes Taylor has been in pre-trial detention since June 2, 2017 in the UK, where she had been residing. The Central Criminal Court’s decision comes after the UK Supreme Court confirmed in a historic judgment that members of non-State armed groups may be prosecuted for crimes of torture under UK law, thus legally paving the way for the case against Ms Taylor to proceed to trial. However, after rendering its judgment, the UK Supreme Court sent the case back to the Central Criminal Court to consider further evidence from the prosecution’s expert and apply the legal standard confirmed by the Supreme Court to the facts of the case.

In order for a member of a non-State armed group to be charged with torture, the individual must have been part of an authority-wielding entity. Today, the Central Criminal Court ruled that the evidence presented by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to prove that the NPFL had the requisite authority over the relevant territory at the time the crimes in question were committed. Therefore, the Court dismissed the case.

Civitas Maxima and the Monrovia-based Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) provided the initial information to the UK authorities which led the Metropolitan Police to conduct an investigation into Ms Taylor for several years.

UK law allows the CPS in these circumstances to return to court if further evidence of government-like control is gathered. It remains to be seen if CPS will do this.

The Criminal Court’s dismissal decision is a significant disappointment for the victims, including those who were poised to testify against Ms Taylor at trial.

Of course, it is terribly unfortunate that the victims will not have their day in Court, and that the crimes Agnes Taylor was charged with will not be addressed in the immediate future. But this is what fair trials look like in a country governed by the rule of law. Sometimes the alleged crimes cannot be prosecuted on the evidence available under the national legislation implementing international law. We will continue fighting for access to justice for Liberian victims of our two civil wars” said Hassan Bility, Director of the GJRP.

This decision is heartbreaking for the victims who have waited more than twenty years for their stories to be heard by a court, and for justice to be done. Civitas Maxima will continue working hard to find ways to bring justice to the survivors”, said Emmanuelle Marchand, Head of the Legal Unit of Civitas Maxima. “However, as a legal organization, we recognize the legal achievements of this case. In this sense, we welcome the decision that the Supreme Court delivered in November, which confirmed as a legal principle that members of non-State armed groups may be prosecuted for crimes of torture under UK law.

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