Agnes Reeves Taylor vs The Truth
On July 27, 2020, Agnes Reeves Taylor, who recently left the United Kingdom (UK), held a press conference in Monrovia, Liberia, during which she spoke in great detail about her incarceration and the torture case against her in the UK. Ms Reeves Taylor stated that the purpose of the press conference was to “set the record straight” regarding the alleged “misinformation and lies” spread about her.
These alleged “misinformation and lies” include the evidence from direct victims and witnesses of her alleged crimes that was considered by a criminal court in the UK as “prima facie” (legally sufficient) evidence to support the charges against her. However, as Ms Reeves Taylor ultimately did not face trial in the UK, the evidence against her was not tested in a court of law.
We at Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) are appalled and very concerned about the apparent public campaign Ms Reeves Taylor is waging against the individuals and organizations who assisted the UK authorities in their investigation. Threats and intimidation of witnesses, victims, and Human Rights Defenders is a hallmark of dictatorships, not of democracies like Liberia. We unequivocally condemn Ms Taylor’s statements repeatedly naming and targeting the individuals and organizations working tirelessly for justice in Liberia.
Hassan Bility and the staff of the GJRP are themselves survivors of the Civil Wars. They are ordinary Liberians who have devoted their lives to serving the victims and survivors of the wars by recording their experiences and assisting in their pursuit of justice. Mr Bility and the GJRP undertake their work at great personal risk – a risk which has been significantly heightened following the return of multiple accused perpetrators to Liberia, and which was further heightened following Ms Reeves Taylor’s comments.
Mr Bility is also an internationally acclaimed Human Rights Defender, and his team – which includes internationally trained investigators – conduct their investigations according to international standards without fear or favor. Ms Reeves Taylor declared that their work “has to stop”. But the GJRP will not stop. The GJRP is, and always has been, on the side of the forgotten Liberian victims – the same victims that Ms Reeves Taylor ruthlessly labels “malicious”, “vicious” and “liars”. Her words are a frightening example of the vital importance of the GJRP’s work: supporting the voices of victims that have had to suffer in silence as impunity has reined in Liberia. Such attempts to discredit and silence victims demonstrates that it is now even more important than ever for Mr Bility and the GJRP to continue their crucial work of documenting war-time crimes and assisting victims in their quest for justice.
It is very troubling to see Ms Reeves Taylor use the public platform of a press conference to explicitly defend the former rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), against accusations of rape. While Ms Reeves Taylor was absent from Liberia for over 20 years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report stands as a testament – documenting the undeniable fact that the NPFL and other groups involved in the Civil Wars committed acts of sexual violence on a massive scale. The TRC should not be instrumentalized, but implemented.
“I submit myself to the Liberian judicial system to examine these lies and determine their plausibility” she stated during the press conference. We call on the current Government of Liberia to accept Ms Reeves Taylor’s invitation, and finally comply with its international treaty obligations and with the TRC recommendations – making sure that those who allegedly committed crimes during the Civil Wars can be held accountable nationally. If she is innocent, that can only be proven in an impartial court of law and not at a press conference.
It is now more important than ever that the Liberian Government listens to calls from Liberians and the international community to establish a war crimes court. Until then, Liberia will be the land of impunity, where war criminals can find safe haven. And this is the greatest disservice to all the people that have died and suffered, to those that were brave enough to testify, and to those who relentlessly advocate for justice and accountability.
Throughout the press conference, Ms Reeves Taylor made numerous attempts to discredit the individuals, organizations, and the UK authorities involved in the investigation against her, by spreading misinformation. One such statement was that she was arrested before any investigation proceeded against her. Like many of the unfounded claims made by Ms Reeves Taylor, this is demonstrably untrue. Civitas Maxima and the GJRP provided information about her alleged crimes to the UK authorities in 2013, which led to a substantial investigation by the Metropolitan Police during the years preceding her arrest in 2017.
Last, but not least, Ms Reeves Taylor attacked us on our integrity as non-governmental and non-profit organizations: she claimed that we, Civitas Maxima and the GJRP, undertake our work out of economic interest – because documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity is, according to her, a “goldmine”. NGOs like ours are obligated by law to keep strict financial records. Our financials are public, and we have always been transparent. Since our creation in 2012, we have never accepted any government funding – which many other NGOs do – in order to remain entirely independent of potential influence, and we have a very strict code of ethics regarding donations. Our 2019 financial records can be found here.