Charles Taylor Judgment: A Victory for Gender Justice

This article earlier appeared on the Open Society Foundations blog

Today’s groundbreaking judgment in the case of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor represents a milestone for both international justice and gender justice. The former president of Liberia was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual slavery. He was also convicted of the charge of enabling “outrages upon personal dignity”, arising from incidents in which women and girls were forced to undress in public and then raped and sexually abused, “sometimes in full view of the public, and in full view of family members”. In the conviction for terrorism too, the judges found that the raping of women and girls in public was part of the campaign of the campaign aimed at terrorizing the civilian population.

This verdict represents the first time that an international court has convicted a former head of state of responsibility for various forms of sexual violence. Taylor was found to have aided and abetted in the commission of the crimes by providing logistical, financial, technical, medical, and other forms of support to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and other rebel groups, providing practical assistance, encouragement and moral support. He substantially contributed to the crimes by supplying arms and ammunition, military personnel, operational support, and other forms of assistance.

The full judgment will be available at a later date, but it is clear from the verdict and the summary of the judgment that the trial judges recognized that rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence were used as a strategic weapon of warfare, intended to harm not only the direct victims, but their families and whole communities. The crimes were widespread and systematic, committed as part of a strategic campaign to impact the conflict by terrorizing, demoralizing, and destroying the affected civilian populations through sexual violence.

There have now been many previous judgments in international war crimes tribunals in which the accused were found guilty of rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence. But virtually all were when the accused physically perpetrated the rape or was present, encouraging, ordering, or ignoring the crimes. The Taylor verdict represents a welcome and long overdue recognition that civilian or military leaders who are far from the battlefield but who support and encourage sexual violence, or make no attempt to prevent or punish it, can be held responsible for sex crimes.

Leaders have frequently been held accountable for murder, pillage, torture, and countless other crimes committed by others, but courts have shown great reluctance to hold them responsible for sex crimes, treating them as a mere inevitable by-product of armed conflict, not a powerful weapon of war.

The Taylor judgment is a major victory for gender justice worldwide. Notably, two of the three trial chamber judges were women with experience of presiding over trials involving gender justice crimes.

Kelly Askin is a Senior Legal Officer with the Open Society Justice Initiative. 


  1. We ask that taylor’s millions stacked in accounts around the world be taken and paid to victims. This devil should never have access or pass it to relatives because he knows his time on earth is hell from today’s date. We hope the International Bodies make sure this monster pays from his opocket for horrors he allowed to happen to girls and boys as there are accounts of rapes of not only girls but boys under his watch! This despicable monsters has no soul and should burn in hell for ever and ever..!

    1. Only the white’s man dog knows that the verdict is clean. But all sound minded human know that the verdict is a disgrace to international justice. Perpetrator means ETHNICITY + NATIONALITY In the minds of these Special Court judges…

      1. I agree, Harrison, and also the ‘the devil’s puppy’ allows to be used and sells his own mom,sisters and aunts to the devil for sacrifices! You are despicable, Harrison!

    2. J. Fallah Menjor,
      You won’t get anything out of Taylor. Not that he has been found guilty of war crimes while he was a sitting president of Liberia. The Sierra Leone amputees and other victims are entiltled to reparations from the Liberian government. This is what you should be pursuing. Once sucessful then Ellen Sirleaf will realize that she never should have cooperated with the Special Court.

      1. Aki,
        I hear the ellen supporters say the Liberian government is not responsible for reparations to victims. I guess this is part of the many gifts given to ellen for selling Mr. Taylor to Sierra Leone and her white masters. Remember the fifty million the west promised for development in Liberia?

      2. @ Aski: Fear of reparation never justifies failing to back the special court of Sierra leone. It is pathetic and inhuman to even mention that, looking at the savagery Sierra Leoneans have been through. Put yourself in the shoe and determin the benefit of reparations, if such is even attainable.

      3. aki and co
        Article 19 of the statute allows: Trial Chamber may order the forfeiture of the property, proceeds and any assets acquired unlawfully or by criminal conduct, and their return to their rightful owner or to the State of Sierra Leone.
        they should seize the property of taylor and his relatives. i hope they do.

    3. I agree. i dnt knw why it took so long to get finaly get justice.ds monster sd just be hanged till death or better yet stoned to death. gosh ds guy is such a devil s right hand man. I wonder who his mother is

    1. Aki,

      Thanks for the link. We saw it yesterday when the head judge of the INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACY COURT, disallowed him to speak in after the verdict was read. We will do all in our power to expose them.

  2. Charles Taylor, Blood Diamonds & Islamic Socialism

    Libyan Arab-Republic’s trained[1] and monitored

    Charles Taylor with his blood-diamond atrocities[2],

    and the RUF were influenced ‘students’ of Islamic

    Socialism of Qaddafi and his mixture of:

    Arabist-Islamist-socialism ‘Green Book.'[3]

    Merchant of death the former Hezbollah Mr. Bah, was

    also the high ranking general and Charles Taylor’s

    personal confidant.[4]








    1. Noko4, if even it was shown it won’t change anything. It was fix from the start of this trial that Mr. Taylor must be found guilty at the end.

      1. Forkpa,
        Agree but then we would have known why Pres. Kabbah was NOT put on trial…..The British tagged him as their man eventhough some of his deputies are locked up…..

  3. To all the contributors of this website. I want to thank you all for the healthy debates we all shared on this site whether I agreed or disagreed.

    My own view of the verdict is that the while the Prosecution failed to prove 100% of their case and effectively had 80% of their case theories like JCE, Command and Control etc thrown out by the judges, nonetheless thei circumstantial and hear say part of the case which makes up the remaining 20% had to stick. In this, given the rules of the court to allow hear say, i’m not sure the judges could’ve done much except use their own subjective decision on who’s “they say” to believe. Add to this allegations of paying mulitple witnesses to tell similar stories and you can see how the prosecution built thier circumstantial part of their case so that something would stick in the judges mind.

    Bottom line, with the relaxed rules of the court, Taylor didn’t have a shot in hell of getting out of this altoghter and we need to accept that this is how our world works and move on.

  4. There was an interesting interview on the BBC’s Focus on Africa program today. Geoffrey Robertson QC and former President of the Special Court was asked about Taylor’s appeal. Mr. Robertson said one avenue of appeal for the Defense would be on the Rape conviction. To be convicted of rape in International Tribunals intent has to be proved. A second line of appeal for Mr. Taylor could be the length of time it took the judges to render a decision. This long delay could show that there was resonable doubt about the prosecution’s evidence.

  5. AKI,
    You are again trying to extend your long arms but your latest suggestion is unrealistic based on the facts in this case. The last time I heard these charges read live none included Liberia as a country, and a liable party to these crimes.Frankly your man Charles Ghangy Taylor is QUILTY as charged and I agree 100% with comarade Fallah firstly I will pray that all of this man personal assects including his buildings,farms, investments in other holdings,pensions as president of Liberia be conficated by the SCSL for the benifits of his victims and as for him, what about son CHUCKY in for 96 years and father Charles for 150 years. That would send a clear message to those want to be Charles Taylor.

  6. My advice to the ‘taylorbans’ is this; find an honest employment and help build Liberia. You are doing in-service, not only to yourself in fighting this loosing battle for taylor, but to your impoverish families that got the lowest GDP in West Africa. Taylor is done! Go get a life! Weah and Tubman are done; no cheap way to riches as most of you dreamed. Work hard and you will be successful like some of us have done. And above all be honest in whatever you do in this world, even if it means got to be honest about it and reason for doing so! I loved what I stand for;truth and fearlessness. None of you guys move me because I would reduce any of you to rubbles if I find out who you are..because I will spear nothing that stands against truth! This is why I hate taylor with passion!

  7. Boy international justice is funny. I stll can’t figure out how someone can be in Liberia and at the same time raping some female in Sierra Leone. Albert Einsteins theory of relativity said it would be impossible.

  8. Noko4,
    This documentary tells it all. To answer your question, there is nothing hidden about the crisis that occurred in SL, the world knows the facts about Eveyrhing that took place there. People know who did what, but western hypocrisy is the hallmark of the game; it controls how the killing of people can be ill-legitimized, who’s to or not to be blame for it….etc

    We all know from day one that the prosecution did a very poor work with the indictments against Mr. Taylor. For those of us who follow the trial from start to finish, we know there wasn’t any evident that proved beyond reasonable doubt to convict. The prosecution biggest gun, President Blah stated clearly that they (Taylor government) never had enough guns for themselves to take some to Freetown to help RUF’s war.

    Apart from hear says, the prosecution didn’t bring any concrete witness that could connect CT to any of the crimes. Instead, it was the defense that did everything credible to prove the prosecution case wrong.

    I feel so bad for the international criminal justice system.

    1. Crown Hill Pekin,
      This is SUPPOSE to be the MOTHER of ALL COURTS……to see her behave and act in such….beyond my WILDEST dream.

      Here is rule 16 as it relates to ALTERNATE JUDGE

      16c: An Alternate judge SHALL BE PRESENT during the deliberations of the Trial Chamber or the Appeals Chamber to which he or she has been designated but shall not be entitled to vote thereat.

      Something SMELLS and it puts the UN on the wrong side…..

  9. There might be some hope for us who believe in Charles Taylor. Being very bored this weekend in Liberia. I decided to read thru the RUF, AFRC and CDF judgements. What I found was that Mr. Taylor was the only person to have been covicted of just the aiding and abbetting with some planning charge. In all the other three trials the judgements were for aiding and abbetting and other serious crimes such as command responsibilty, ordering of crimes and instigating of crimes. Remember that Mr. Taylor has been found not guilty of command responsibilty, Joint Criminal Enterprise and the ordering or instigating of crimes in Sierra Leone.

    If in sentencing the court wants to be fair and that is a big if. Then as in the case of the CDF the Trial Chamber found that although the CDF indictees were guilty of the crimes on command responsibility etc. The court considered mitigating factors such as they were fighting to return the country to a democratically elected form of government. For this their sentences were reduced to 15 and 20 years respectively for the two defendents. the court also said time served from the date of arrest would be counted towards their incarceration.

    Let us remember that Mr. Taylor also stepped down voluntarily and because of that both Liberia and Sierra Leone are enjoying democratic govenrnments and peace today. Secondly Mr. Taylor was instrumental in the release of the UN peace keepers being held hostage by the RUF. Both of these are mitigating factors in Mr. Taylor’s favor. Given the fact that his crimes were less then the convicted members of the CDF. In all fairness his sentence should be less than the 15 years given to one of the CDF indictees.
    Also his six years already spent in detention shoud be credited to his sentence.
    In the real and fair world of justice this is what should happen. However let us remember that the court has always held him to a different standard.

    1. aki,
      Yes, if only if. But I see it differently. Washington and London want to keep Mr. Taylor out of Liberia still the oil wells run dry, and the only means to this is to keep him in prison as a result of this WHITE COLOR FASHIONED VERDICT.

    2. Aki,
      I am beginging to wonder if this was a DEAL between the judges to get ALL to be on board…..

  10. I applaud the trial and conviction of Charles Taylor who aided and abetted the hacking off of limbs in neighbouring Sierra Leone for diamonds.

    But who’s going to prosecute international criminals like Bush, Rumsfeld and the other one with a bad heart — what’s his name? who sent hundreds of thousands of Iraques and thousands of American soldiers needlessly to their deaths? What about their collaborators like Blair and other Western leaders? Who will bell the proverbial cats?

    So, while I am happy that the likes of Taylor and Ghadaffi’s (is that the spelling?) son are getting their just dessert, I am ambivalently uneasy about international justice.

  11. Taylor Fanatics I wish to extend my heart felt sympathy to you on behalf of your monster war lord who will never see his freedom until he gets into his grave from prison. First of all most of you Taylorbans don’t know the meaning of aiding and abetting.You who aid and abets a crime you as the criminal. For example if I give you a knife while you are fighting with someone and you stab that person to death, I am of the same crime with you in the court of justice although I didn’t do the stabbing but I gave you the weapon that led you to that criminal act. We as sierra Leoneans we are well aware that Taylor didn’t take arms and came to Sierra Leone to fight and kill people but he created a safe heaven for the RUF/AFRC by providing a guest house. communication facilities, arms and armor including cash there by giving these barbaric people to cause mayhem in Sierra Leone.
    Sam Bockarie was indicted by UN while he was in Liberia and Taylor failed to hand him over only for him to kill him latter. Not withstanding the above, in 1990 Taylor threatened Sierra Leone that we will taste the bitterness of war since it was in our soil that ECOMOG leaves to stop the war in Liberia as peace keeping force. I want to categorically say this, if Taylor had desisted from his support to the RUF/AFRC and close all relationship with this group and send them out of Liberia to Sierra Leone, he wouldn’t have found himself in this mess, but he believed that he was untouchable because of been a head of state.
    The evil that men do leaves after them, so let it be with your war lord. This is sending messages to the poor African continent, as beggars and in mental slavery from the west, we should ever again engage ourselves in aiding and abetting war criminals in our neighbouring countries. If what late Lansana Conteh of Guinea did by arresting all RUF/AFRC that came to his country and handed them over to the government of Sierra Leone when ECOMOG took over Freetown and the entire country from them, if Taylor had done the same, the war would have ended in 1998. He failed to do so but to allow them to regroup and get more training in Liberia for invasion.
    My advise to you guys is to regroup yourselves and go to the Hague, well armed, to free your prophet, otherwise he is surely going to die in prison. Now the souls of the deceased will lie in perfect peace until the day of reckoning. Jfallh and others, thank you for standing for justice. At the end we have won.God bless us all who love humanity, equal right and justice for all.

    1. Faud when all mitigating factors are considered by the judges. I think you will be very disappointed with the sentencing.

  12. I believe this Court has put herself on trial……..I await the FINAL wordings and how AIDING AND ABETTING.

  13. I am disgusted by the way a person can treat another. This article is heartbreaking. The violence in this country is absolutely devastating. However, I believe this country can have a bright future. I work for a non-profit in Africa that helps to provide education for children and supports former child soldiers. These soldiers that have abandoned this lifestyle and are changing their lives to do great things provides so much hope for this great people. I feel so much sympathy for these people who have been treated terribly and I pray that more people will reach out to help.

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