Charles Taylor and the ICC: What’s Up With That?

Dear Readers,

The media has sometimes reported inaccurately on the Taylor trial, particularly about its relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. While the trial is being held in the ICC premises, press articles sometimes report on the Taylor trial as if it is an ICC trial. This has prompted a number of questions from readers.

One of our readers, Andrew, asked:

According to the Rome Statue, the ICC has jurisdiction only over matters that occurred after the Rome Statute came into effect on 1 July 2002. Yet we are seeing a trial of Charles Taylor that is being held under the auspices of the ICC that predates the period mentioned above. If one were to organize a special court, should it jurisdiction over matter not cover the same timeframe as that of its mother body?

Andrew is absolutely right about the jurisdiction of the ICC. And as a result, one might ask: How could the ICC try Charles Taylor for events stretching way back to 1996 when it is only empowered to look at crimes from July 1, 2002? Or else, we might wonder: how can the Special Court try Charles Taylor in another court that is governed by a different set of rules, and a different time frame, to that which applies to the crimes alleged against Mr. Taylor?

In fact – and this is often not made clear in the media – the ICC has nothing to do with this trial beyond hiring out one of its spare courtrooms to the Special Court for Sierra Leone to conduct Mr. Taylor’s trial, and also providing space in their detention facilities for Mr. Taylor (which also means that the ICC staff may occasionally deal with Mr. Taylor, for example, in relation to security issues). What this means is that the Special Court is not bound by the ICC’s rules, procedures or timeframes in relation to the trial.

The agreement to set up the Special Court, which was made between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone, actual provides for the Special Court to sit away from its normal seat in Freetown. Article 10 states: “The Court may meet away from its seat if it considers it necessary for the efficient exercise of its functions, and may be relocated outside Sierra Leone, if circumstances so require.” (This Agreement can be found here: In addition, Rule 4 of the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, says that “a chamber or a judge may exercise their functions away from the Seat of the Special Court, if so authorized by the President.” (These rules area available here:

In this case, the Special Court moved Trial Chamber II over to The Hague when the Security Council authorized the transfer of Mr. Taylor’s trial for reasons of international peace and security (and here is the Security Council resolution 1688 (2006) if you are interested:  This means that the same combination of Justices as presided over the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) trial in Freetown (that is, Justices Richard Lussick, Julia Sebutinde and Teresa Doherty — with the addition of Justice El Hadji Malick Sow, who is an alternative judge for the Taylor trial appointed by the United Nations) were simply transferred to The Netherlands to hear Mr. Taylor’s case. The Special Court also brought over the same team of prosecutors who had been based in Sierra Leone; as well as a team of people to help with the administration of the trial.  Mr. Moriba, for example, who always so kindly answers our questions, is Sierra Leonean and is normally based at the Special Court in Freetown– but has been moved to The Hague as the Special Court’s specially designated press and outreach officer for the Taylor trial. In short, the Special Court has simply set up a little satellite office in The Hague for the purposes of trying Mr. Taylor.

What this means in practice is that the Taylor trial is governed by the same rules that would apply if he were being tried at the Special Court in Freetown.  The ICC rules don’t apply because it is purely a transactional relationship between the two courts – one hires out its space to the other.  This is what allows for Mr. Taylor to be tried for the crimes and for the timeframes he is: because the Special Court statute covers crimes committed “in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996.” (You can find the statute here:

Yet this is often not the picture we get in the media, who report it as though the Taylor trial is somehow being undertaken by the ICC.  This is not true – and Andrew’s question picked up on that misreporting in the press.

Hopes this helps to clarify the questions that a number of readers have.

Keep the questions coming – we will try to answer as quickly as possible, but some take a little more time to put together so we may need to ask for your patience with some. For others, we will try to get outside experts in to write for us.  That can also take a bit longer too.

But we do want to help where we can.  So if in doubt, try us, and we can see what we can do to try to answer.


  1. Ok, Tracey,

    Good job. I believe all grounds were covered and thanks for links.

    You may disregard questions for Rapp that I posted along similar lines.

  2. It’s extremely worrying when I read the comments made by all of you Charles Taylor lover. I am not sure if your love for him is base on blind loyalty or mere ignorance. No reasonable person can ignore the brilliant performance of his lead counsel. Yeah, unfortunately, the law is not necessarily base on truth but rather prove. Despite the outcome of this trial, the truth will continue to live in our individual testimonies. We all saw the many atrocities he commended while he was president of our beloved Liberia. For me, his greatest crime was against the many little girls he took advantage of. His apatite for very young girls is a fact. His extreme dire for sexual intercourse for babies as little as 14 is evident. This, by far is his greatest crime in my opinion. Yeah, yeah, you can go ahead and deem it “HEAR SAY”. But to the many parents to whom this remain evident, this is no “hear say”. Again, THE TRUTH LIES IN OUR INDIVIDUAL TESTIMONIES. Until blind loyalty comes to a halt in Africa, we are destine for a long trail of DARKNESS for which we are well know among our Earthly counterparts.

    1. True African,

      I share your passion. Unfortunate all across africa, dowry of girls below 14yrs is an ongoing affair. Opposing such practice that has been a custom will isolate you because our elders hold these dearly as evident in the Sande and Poro societies.

      But this should not dissuade you from embarking on a venture to seek the passing of legislation that would ban sande and poro societies that prepare our young ones for courtship at early ages.

    2. TrueAfrican,
      Did you testified infront of Liberia’s TRC?? Is so, WHY not??? Again, this case got ZERO to do with Liberia and it’s about time some of you guys know that. Did you read the CHARGES??? Did you see anything about Liberia amongst??

      No, we’re NOT BLIND LOVERS of Mr. Taylor but watching and listening to the various testimonies and presentations and you must admit if you were around when the prosecutors were making their case that the defense has from all points on the circle made the prosecutors looked like amateurs!!!!

      Yes, all we got from them were HEARSAYS….if you feel otherwise then please show us ONE CREDITABLE FACTUAL FACT as it relate to the charges and the mandate of this court.

    3. True African,

      according to you, those of us who writings appear to be loyalists of President Taylor is either out of ignorance or blind loyalty. I say, it is your personal interpretation and it doesn’t count as facts. As far as we are concerned, we are speaking our minds. I think, we should not be punished or labeled by anyone of being Taylor loyalists when we speak of what we think is wrong or right. Will it be fair to you, if I label you as a sellout, or stooge? you can answer either way, I can care less. However, did I just read what I thought I read of you saying that the law is not necessarily based on truth, but rather prove? True African, seriously, are you a true African? Let me tell you something if you don’t know. Truth and prove are complementary within the court of law. They are not opposed to each other. I hope you will learn a valuable lesson from this website before posting because, this site is no joke. I will strongly advise you to think hard before posting on this site.

    4. What did you say your name is TrueAfrican goosh! you are not even proud to use the name your parents gave you at birth. TrueAfrica, what an African!

      Am very sorry for you but when it comes to the Court of Law, its about facts not friction. I can speak for My support for Charles Taylor is because I believe that the aligations aginst President Charles Taylor in that court are baseless.

      If you say Liberia then you are on point. But do you know that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (born 29 October 1938) is the current President of Liberia and has been involved in every coup dta in Liberia? Come again

      As for the thinking of people of him we all have diffrences. Do not confuse What he did in his Country Liberia and Sierra Leone

  3. Looking back at Mr.Blah’s testimony once more today, it appears Sam Bockaries’ assissination is explained differently from what pro Taylor advocates are leading on this site. so lets focus on the issues. Mr.Blah admitted seeing Sam Bocakarie and Benjamin Yeatent together and escorted by Yeatent’s death squard in a pickup truck, to some palm plantation in Nimba all alive but the second time around Yeaten had Sam Bockarie’ mutilated body in the back of the pickup truck, and in the same testimonies he stated that Yeaten didn’t respect any body in Liberia but Taylor and at times boasted that he [Yeaten] took orders from only his papay Taylor.some may say this is not significant to this trial but Sam Bocakarie’s name has been mentioned about 89 times since Taylor took the stand, is this leading to possible charges of witness tempering by elemination? lets await the peoples time to cross.

    1. Zigggy,
      You’re sure read the transcript CORRECTLY??? Please note that Mr. Taylor is NOT on trial for anything done or related.

  4. TrueAfrican,
    This trial is not about Liberia! You should face the facts because if you say what have been said about Mr. Taylor involvement in Sierra Leone is true, then why didn’t the Court charge for all that happened from March of 1991 to the point when he ( Taylor )left Liberia for Nigeria?

    The cutting of people legs and hands that happened in Sierra Leone, did you see the NPFL doing that in Liberia? Do you think Taylor had the means to fight three wars at the same time when there were Arms embargo on Him? Of course not. Some of us speaking here are not speaking because of loyalty to Mr.
    Taylor but what a lot of us are is that, if you’re accusing a person of a crime, you should have documentation to prove it not taking stories from someone who have committed worst crimes to be your witness. What you think he or she will do to save his or herself? They will say things to save themselves. In this case where are the leaders of ULIMO who sold weapons to RUF from 1991 to 1997?
    Why are they not on trial in the Sierra Leonean case? Now you have heard about how Mr. Taylor came from jail in the US to be a rebel in Liberia, so my question to you is, the man who created the robot and the robot that cause distructions of lives and properties, who is to be held responsible? Your dislike for a person shouldn’t cause you to give them injustice! Therefore, if you’re using Justice, then it should be a fair game!

  5. Ziggy Salis,

    You seem very interested in Sam Bokarie’s death aren’t you? This is about the third or fourth time you have raised this issue. Now let’s examine what Moses Blah said. He claimed that he saw Bokarie with Yaten and then later saw Bokarie’s body in the back of the pickup. However were you aware that the account of the wound he claims to have seen on Bokarie was in sharp contrast to what the Coroner in Freetown give of the body examined? Bokarie was killed by gunshot wounds according to the Coroners; yet Blah said that Bokarie was stabbed by Yaten.

    Look why don’t you wait for this cross examinatiion when these issues will be raised as you claim. I have every confidence that Mr. Taylor is up to the task of answering all questions asked by the Prosecution.
    If you are following the case properly you will be aware that the Defence is going in chronological order. They have not reached to the time of Bokarie’s death so do not pre-empt the statement of Mr Taylor. Wait for him to reach that time and then you can make derogatory remarks about the subject.

    1. In his testimony, former “President” Moses Blah Claimed to accidentally find himself in his village (when war was going on just a few distance from his village at the time) on the day he allegedly met Benjamin Yeaten and Sam Bockarie at his home in his village. Further He claimed that he also accidentally encountered Benjamin Yeaten at a certain sawmill outside monrovia on his way back from his village to monrovia at which time benjamin Yeaten showed him the body of Sam Bockarie who he(Moses Blah)later heard was stranguled to death without him seeing any gunshot wounds.His vehicle also accidentally followed (in fact excorted) the vehicle carrying Sam Bockarie’s body into monrovia.

      For God’s sake what does Moses Blah think he is doing? How can all these things happen accidentally? He has completely rubished his reputation and he will forever be considered a traitor because his story just does not hold up in the face of clear and documented evidence to the contrary presented to him on cross examination. He must have been seriously threatened by the Prosecutors for him to agree to come up with this type of evidence against his boss of 20 years. We are waiting for the defence evidence to get to 2003 when we will have a chance to hear Charles Taylors sidme of the story.

  6. Ziggy Salis, just out of curiosity. If Sam Bockarie was alive, where do you think he would have been now? Do you think he would have been in prison like Isaac Sassay his comtemporary or a freeman? I say, considering what has happened to Sassay and the rests of RUF/AFRC, he would have been in jail or dead. So Ziggy, deal with the living instead of the dead. Isaac sasay is alive. Why don’t you deal with him since you desperately want an insider account of the RUF/AFRC despite a communication from the higher ups exonerating President Taylor.

  7. Who is approved to provide arm support to rebel groups?

    Throughout the Charles Taylor trial it has been highlighted through documentations and the prosecution presentations that the international community accused Charles Taylor of supplying arms and ammunition to the RUF rebel that was campaigning for power in Sierra Leone. This military support was in violation of United Nations Resolution. There has been documentation alleging RUF arms trafficking and Liberia being used as a final conduit as those arms are transferred to the RUF.

    It is common knowledge that the more arms supplies are cut off from rebel forces and other insurgent groups, the less likely that they could achieve their military objective. Moreover absence of such support could have direct impact on the suffering and casualty that the civilian population experience. From a political standpoint, success at curtailing arms supply to rebel groups would also help in compelling them to negotiate a peaceful resolution of said conflict.

    At the back of the call for Charles Taylor Government and Liberia to stop its support to the RUF were America and Britain. However, reading from an article appearing in the a Newsletter of Teach Peace Foundation(thanks to Crow-Hill Peking), it appears that America through the CIA supplied arms and ammunitions to a rebel group from Guinea that was fighting to overthrow the government of Charles Taylor. Reports has also surfaced claiming that the Guinea rebel group fighting Charles Taylor also had military supplies from Britain.

    So we see on the one hand, the American and British Governments supporting a campaign to prevent arms flow to guerilla movements, yet on the other hand they are clandestinely supplying arms to overthrow a legitimately elected government, destabilize a nation and create human suffering.

    This double standard leaves many questions o my mind:

    1. Can these people be taken seriously, all it is their might and power that create fear to confront them.

    2. Who is approved to provide arm support to rebel groups?

    3. Is this international justice or international mockery?

    Someone please help me.

  8. I am unable to access the streaming video due to poor connectivity. Is there anywhere I can download an audio file – particularly of hte defence’s closing arguement?

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