Charles Jalloh is Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.; formerly the Legal Advisor to the Office of the Principal Defender, Special Court for Sierra Leone and duty counsel to former Liberian President Charles Taylor. He blogs at International Criminal Law in Ferment and we are grateful to him for accepting our invitation to contribute this piece to EJIL:Talk!
On 26 April 2012, Trial Chamber II of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) sitting in The Hague, comprised of Judges Richard Lussick, presiding; Julia Sebutinde, and Teresa Doherty, gave their long awaited verdict in the case involving former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
As has been widely reported since, the judges unanimously found Taylor guilty of five counts of crimes against humanity, five counts of war crimes and one count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels acting in concert with the mutinying elements of the Sierra Leone Army known as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in the period between 30 November 1996 and 18 January 2002.
Taylor was convicted as a secondary perpetrator, i.e. as a planner and aider and abettor, of murder, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement, other inhumane acts, acts of terrorism, pillage, outrages upon personal dignity, violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder and cruel treatment, and conscripting or enlisting children under 15 years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Although the Chamber has not yet issued its authoritative trial judgment setting out the full reasoning behind its conclusions, the judges made some significant factual and legal findings in the 44-page “summary” that Presiding Judge Lussick read out in open court for about two hours. Having convicted Taylor, they fixed 16 May 2012 for an oral sentencing hearing with each of the parties allocated one hour to address the Chamber. Taylor was offered up to half an hour to make a statement, should he so wish. The sentencing judgment will follow two weeks later (on 30 May 2012).
Taylor is the first former President to have been indicted, fully tried and now convicted in an international criminal tribunal since the immediate post-World War II trial of German Admiral Karl Doenitz at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Not surprisingly, many thoughtful legal commentators have already weighed in on key issues raised by the verdict. These include the Chamber’s findings on Joint Criminal Enterprise, Command Responsibility and Gender Crimes (see, for example, Bill Schabas, Diane Marie Amman, Jens Ohlin, Valerie Oosterveld, Kelly Askin).
2. An Omission and a Problem
Briefly mentioned by Kirsty Sutherland, Kevin Heller and Bill Schabas, but not as well discussed (with the exception of Jennifer Easterday and Sara Kendall), was the weighty decision of the alternate (fourth) judge in the Taylor Trial, El Hadji Malick Sow, to enter a “dissenting opinion” to Trial Chamber II’s unanimous judgment.
In this post, I examine Alternate Judge Sow’s views on the verdict. I argue that, while his statement gives cause for concern, and ultimately reflects the tension throughout the trial between him and the other three judges, expressing public views on the verdict was unfortunate because the effect might be to impugn the credibility and legitimacy of an otherwise fair trial that met the due process standards of the SCSL Statute and international human rights law. Read the rest of this entry…