Parties in Taylor Trial Make Appeals Submissions

On April 26, 2012, Trial Chamber II of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) convicted Taylor of aiding and abetting the commission of serious crimes including rape, murder, and destruction of civilian property committed by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) forces in Sierra Leone from November 30, 1996 to January 18, 2002. The judges further found that Taylor planned an attack on Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. On May 30, 2012, the judges sentenced Taylor to a jail term of 50 years for these crimes.

Today, the parties made oral submissions to the Appeals Chamber. Most of the submissions were about the limits of criminal liability for aiding and abetting a crime. In particular, the parties debated the required mental state: whether Taylor was guilty if he knew there was a substantial likelihood his assistance would result in the commission of a crime, or whether he intended to assist the commission of a crime. The parties also debated whether assistance had to be given to a crime “as such,” or whether he could be convicted for giving other types of assistance that facilitated crimes. In addition, the parties gave submissions on the Trial Chamber’s reasoning behind Taylor’s sentence. Their submissions are summarized below.

Did Taylor have to Assist a Crime “As Such” to be Convicted?

Much of the debate was about the exact nature of Taylor’s assistance. In particular, the parties debated whether his assistance was to crimes “as such” or for other purposes and whether Taylor intended to assist in the commission of crimes.

The prosecution argued that for a conviction of aiding and abetting, the accused has to provide practical assistance, moral support, or encouragement to the crimes and that the accused’s assistance had a substantial effect on the commission of the crime. Moreover, the prosecution said that for a finding of aiding and abetting, SCSL jurisprudence requires a finding that Taylor’s assistance was intentional and that he was aware of the substantial likelihood that his acts would assist the commission of the crimes. The assistance does not need to be carried out with the purpose to commit the crime. Therefore, according to the prosecution, whether he intended to assist crimes “as such” is irrelevant.

The defense submitted that for aiding and abetting, the reference point is always the crime, “as such.” The defense submissions suggested that acts of assistance that are not directed to crimes “as such” cannot be considered a substantial contribution to the crime necessary for an aiding and abetting conviction. The defense argued that Taylor’s assistance was inherently geared toward combat: it was ammunition to support a military campaign. Even when a bloody civil war is going on, the defense argued, this is not inherently criminal assistance.

Did Taylor have to Intend to Assist Crimes to be Convicted?

The defense suggested that customary international law requires a “purpose” element for proving aiding and abetting. It argued that “purpose” meant that an accused intended to assist another person or group, not that he intended the crimes committed. In other words, the defense argued that the act of assistance must have been done with the purpose of assisting, but this is separate from intending that assistance to facilitate crimes.

According to the prosecution, this argument is incorrect. Under this approach, the prosecution suggested, if a person assists someone knowing that a crime will be committed, but they do it for greed, political advantage or another purpose, they cannot be held responsible for aiding and abetting. This “purpose” element is not an element of aiding and abetting under international criminal law, the prosecution submitted, nor was it a part of customary international law.

The prosecution argued that Taylor intended the crimes committed by the RUF and their campaign of terror. However, knowledge was all that is required to prove aiding and abetting. The prosecution submitted that Taylor’s actions show his intent: although Taylor admitted he knew about the RUF’s atrocities, the Trial Chamber found he continued to send them arms and ammunition. This indicates his intention for the RUF’s crimes to be committed, the prosecution argued, meaning the Trial Chamber’s findings would meet a “purpose” mens rea standard.

The defense argued that the Trial Chamber’s findings would not meet a “purpose” standard. The Trial Chamber found that Taylor knew his support would provide practical assistance, encouragement, or moral support to RUF/AFRC in the commission of crimes during the course of military operations in Sierra Leone, the defense noted. However, the defense submitted, the Trial Chamber did not address whether Taylor knew that a crime would occur or that there was a possibility that the crime might occur because of his assistance. This reasoning does not meet a “knowledge” standard and certainly does not meet a “purpose” standard, the defense argued.

Furthermore, the defense noted, the Trial Chamber’s findings on Taylor’s mental state were insufficient. In the Sierra Leone conflict, there were periods that were more violent than others and there periods with more efforts of reconciliation than others. However, the Defense argued, the Trial Chamber failed to make any findings about Taylor’s mental state at different stages of the conflict. This suggests the Trial Chamber did not consider this, the defense argued, noting that the prosecution has argued that Taylor had the same mental state for the entire duration of the war. This is not likely true, given the complexity of events, the defense argued.

If Taylor’s Assistance was not Directed at a Crime, Can the Assistance be Considered Substantial?

The parties also addressed whether acts of assistance not “specifically directed” to the commission of a crime could meet the requirement for aiding and abetting that assistance substantially contributes to the commission of the crime.

The prosecution contended that to be convicted of aiding and abetting a crime, an accused has to contribute to the crime, not an enterprise. According to the Prosecution, a contribution that is not “specifically directed” at a crime cannot be substantial, which is a requirement of aiding and abetting.

According to the defense, the Trial Chamber findings did not make an analysis of “substantial” or “specifically directed” sufficient for an aiding and abetting conviction. In fact, the defense argued, the Trial Chamber took the opposite approach, finding that if you do anything to perpetuate the existence of an organization that you know engages in criminal actions, then that alone is sufficient to find you guilty of assisting any and all crimes committed by that group. This is an inappropriate standard for aiding and abetting convictions, the defense argued.

Bullets can be used criminally or lawfully, the defense contended. Yet, the defense noted, even given the context of a bloody civil war, the Trial Chamber made no finding about which percentage of which bullets were used lawfully or unlawfully and made no finding that bullets provided by Taylor were used in any crime. The Trial Chamber’s reasoning did not find any links between Taylor’s assistance and the commission of the crimes: the assistance was remote in time from the commission of the crimes, there was no finding on a causal link, and there was no temporal proximity, the defense argued.

Should a Sentence for Aiding and Abetting be Lower than for Direct Participation?

The parties also made submissions about the Trial Chamber’s reasoning in sentencing Taylor to 50 years of imprisonment. This sentence is similar in length to previous SCSL sentences for those convicted of direct participation in serious crimes. The Appeals Chamber requested submissions on whether some forms of liability should be considered less serious that others when it comes to sentencing.

The prosecution argued that there is no hierarchy between the different modes of liability according to the SCSL Statute or in customary international law. If the legal characterization of a crime is anything at all, it is but one minor factor to be considered in sentencing, the prosecution contended.

According to the prosecution, sentences must reflect the totality of criminal conduct and the gravity of crimes, a principle firmly supported in case law of international criminal tribunals. The tribunal should consider the totality of crimes committed, the conduct of accused, and the consequences of crimes, the prosecution argued. The category of crimes should not be considered in determining a sentence, and to determine a sentence based on a hierarchy of crimes would be contrary to a fundamental principle that sentences must be individualized to the circumstances of the case, the prosecution argued.

The defense argued that aiding and abetting warrants a lower sentence than conviction for direct forms of perpetration. The Trial Chamber should weigh the gravity of the offense and the conduct of accused and that generally an aiding and abetting conviction warrants a lower sentence than more direct forms of participation. The defense acknowledged that there is no absolute requirement that a person convicted of aiding and abetting receive a lower sentence but argued that this is generally the case. This general principle should have been applied by the Trial Chamber, the defense argued, but it was not. Moreover, the defense said, the Trial Chamber gave no valid reason for departing from this general principle, resulting in a manifestly unfair sentence for Taylor.

Tomorrow the parties will have an opportunity to make responses to the arguments submitted today. After the oral submissions have concluded, the Appeals Chamber will retire to consider their verdict.




  1. Interesting!!! I hope the transcript of today’s proceedings will soon be available for the public to read.

  2. This seems like it will end up like the trial….brilliant questions asked by the Judges….in the end, A DECISION BEYOND REASONING….but I got my fingers cross.

  3. Aiding and abetting warrants a lower sentence:
    why? because you start and maintain a war all alone? you buy a weapon, your shoes, mount a bus and travel over borders to sierra leone and start the war all by yourself?
    even for a dispute it needs two persons!

    and besides: 50 years is short enough. thousands of amputated persons live their whole life with that handicap, not only 50 years.

    1. Swizz, wake up, lad! It’s not about what the man is accused of. At 16 I was also accused of being a REBEL LEADER when Taylor got intelligence linking UN to the Model Rebel, and said no one should be crossed into Liberian unless they had proofs through UN temporary cards or Id. I was mad, and led people to go pray and fast with me on a wed at the AG. When we were told to return to the UN facilities, an X Secretary General who was robbed by a young liberian by the name of Snake-Baby came by and ordered his people to kill all the refugees, excluding 6 girls. They tortured us and forced me to drink bathroom black water until i was filled and puked. All because of snake baby, we almost died being falsely accused.
      What I am trying to remind u, my brother, is that it does not matter what one is accused of. If you care about justice, join us and start demanding that these judges and this court proves Mr. Taylor is guilty beyond reasonable doubts! If and Once they can do this by sufficient evidence, We’ll have nothing but a thank you note and more on to the next chapter of seeking them to set up likewise court for Liberia. And there we can actually give Taylor an increase for his role in Liberia. Got it?
      Accuse all u can. But, you must have enough to proof him guilty by the EVIDENCE!! 🙂

      1. tomas
        the only few who are not satisfied with the proof are the taylobans.
        the court considers ct guilty beyond all reasonable doubts, they proved it. Still – there are profs working in this court, with high international renomée.
        if it where not a court of justice ruled by the rule of law, an appeal wasn’t possible.
        if liberia was ready to set up a likewise court, they can do it all time. just without ct, because he’s already trialed – non bis in idem.

  4. Great arguments! The truth shall free Taylor. it will be a great day for all victims who met their deaths, and above all, for taylor and his appeal of innocence; that he unknowingly sheltered the RUF leader, Foday Sankor, and wanted nothing more than peace in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone, and received nothing in return for his services! The western justice is at stake if this guilt verdict is turned into more reduction from 50 years that was reduced from 80 years, previously suggested. I will follow the reasoning that will overturn it, and what it means for mother africa! No further comments!

    1. yes fallah
      let’s all pray for ct, that he comes home and lead liberia to a higher ground (for all who do not notice – it is ironic) . a ground where human rights count, where education is first, where taxes and income from natural resources are invested in infrastucture, where pollution is stopped, so that the people are able to get out of misery.
      what goes around, comes around.

  5. ABOVE ALL ELSE THE PEOPLE. this whole court is a real joke. even the judges at night know they all are joke. your leave GHANKAY and let us all have a good new year

    1. wilk612
      a little late for your new-years-wishes. but on this site we are used to people who don’t get it at all. for example that ct is a convicted murderer.

    2. wilk612
      yes the people – and not the family of ct or he himself.
      ABOVE ALL THE PEOPLE means the people benefit of the natural resources and taxes – and not a few cold-blood raiders.
      before you cite constitution you should study a bit – it doesn’t meen you have to go to university, which ct forgot to build, because he was so occupied with getting rich. it means to get your brains started.

  6. It has been really a tough time for all of us here following this trial from the starts. My only quest now is for us to wait patiently for the second verdict which I hope will come soon if the judges so desire. We all know that the longer this case takes to come to an end, the more money will be wasted something many of us have been preaching against. Whether Mr Taylor is a FREE Man tomorrow, or he is sentenced to 150 years or even put to death, all I know is that the life of all the victims will never be the same. The dead will never come back to us, reconstructions will continue for the next 50 years and beyond. I wish the judges could rethink and donate have of what they have been paid for this case to some community health centers especially in Sierra Leone. I know one day, some of them will write book about this case. Until then fellows, I keep my gingers crossed.

    1. amax
      Judges do not need to donate since they do a good and important job, although it would befit them.
      But raider ct should for sure donate or to put it straight, render his wealth to the people. (Pls nobody tells me he is a poor man, we dicussed that extensive on previous occasions – just remember that his wife still lives in a big villa in Monrovia.)

      But judges could do good by applying Article 19 III of the STATUTE OF THE SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE
      (see for yourself

      Art. 19 III of the Statutes:
      “In addition to imprisonment, the 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.”

      Although I do not really know what assets ct got out of his criminal conduct. Maybe someone could help here. And I do not know if it is still possible in an appeal-trial.
      Now, where I think about it, the jugdes probably missed there something.

  7. It is my hope that CGT spend more than 50 years in jail; this is a man who has damaged several families who lives and their children’s lives will be badly affected for more that a century; 50 years is a very short sentence.

      1. Dear Alex,

        Apologies for the delay in posting, but we will have a report shortly on the January 23 proceedings.

    1. Thick people don’t remember Chief. Good to know that reasonable and objective individuals like you are still out there. Sure you’ve come across the few pests on this site. Advice: Ignore their vindictive,uneducated and childish rants. You can’t engage such “things” in constructive debate(s). The SCSL trial chambers and appeal arms are one and the same in terms of reasoning ( lack of reasoning more-like ).

        1. I really can’t believe anyone however behind-the-screen they may be, could be ye thick. My sensible comments are not in vain as I stand behind common sense – even though it’s plainly not widely common – and rational thinking as do a host of other African brothers here. This is why I write my piece whenever I am chanced and not use the computer to make a grown-up pest of myself.

  8. Dear All,
    This was the end of oral arguments. Does that mean Alternate Judge Malick Sow will not give evidence? Or was the defense motion for him to testify rejected by the Appeals Chambers? If anyone has the answer please let me know.


    1. Dear Aki,

      We will be posting a report on the January 23 appeals arguments shortly. Regarding Justice Sow, the Appeals Chamber judges are yet to issue a decision on whether he will be allowed to give evidence. Once there is a public decision, we will let you know.

      Thank you.

  9. For CT: if all the prophet’s predictions comeby, then their is more hope for the days that lie ahead

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