In June 2017, the Metropolitan Police Service arrested Agnes Taylor, Charles Taylor’s ex-wife, charged with torture for her alleged involvement with atrocities committed by Charles Taylor’s rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), during the first Liberian Civil War.

Reeves-Taylor 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. She was the second person formerly associated with the NPFL that has been charged with crimes committed during Liberia’s civil wars.

On December 16, 2019, the Central Criminal Court decided that Reeves-Taylor should not face justice.

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.

FactionNPFL
NationalityLiberian
Period of Activity First Liberian Civil War
IndictmentTorture
StatusDismissed

Why was Reeves-Taylor living in the UK?

In 1999, she was appointed to an official position and sent to London by Charles Taylor. She was subsequently granted asylum in 2007. She then became a lecturer at the London School of Commerce and Coventry University.

Why was the case dismissed?

The Supreme Court clarified that, in order for a member of a rebel group to be charged with torture, the group must have exercised “governmental functions”. The Central Criminal Court ruled that the evidence presented by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to prove that the NPFL exercised such functions in the area and at the time of the alleged crimes by Reeves Taylor. Therefore, the Court dismissed the case. However, Reeves Taylor was found innocent.

Why was this a historical decision?

Because the UK’s highest court authoritatively ruled that members of rebel groups may be prosecuted for acts of torture under UK law. This will pave the way for future prosecutions of members of rebel and insurgent groups for torture.