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HRW: “Liberia: UK Arrest for Civil War Crimes a Step for Justice”

Image by: Kalou Kaka

Agnes Reeves Taylor, the former wife of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, was arrested on 1st June 2017 in London, and charged with torture.

She is allegedly responsible of having committed acts of torture while working with the National Patriotic Front of Liberia during Liberia’s civil war.

In April 2012, the Special Court for Sierra Leone found her former husband guilty of all eleven counts of “aiding and abetting” war crimes and crimes against humanity, and was sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment.

Agnes Reeves Taylor’s arrest by British authorities confirms the trend towards universal jurisdiction, and has been defined as “a meaningful step for justice”. It constitutes a long-needed and decisive development in the path towards accountability in Liberia.

Human Rights Watch has issued the following statement about Agnes Reeves Taylor’s arrest:

Agnes Reeves Taylor Charged with Torture During 1989-96 War

(London) – The United Kingdom authorities’ arrest of Agnes Reeves Taylor in London for her alleged role in torture committed during Liberia’s first civil war is a meaningful step for justice, Human Rights Watch said today. Reeves Taylor, the former wife of imprisoned former Liberian president Charles Tayler, was arrested by the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes unit on June 1, 2017, and subsequently charged with torture.

Reeves Taylor, who has been living in the UK, is expected to appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 3, said a statement issued by British authorities.  She was alleged to have committed the crimes while working with the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), led by her former husband during his bid to unseat then-president Samuel K. Doe.

“The actions taken by the United Kingdom to address crimes committed during Liberia’s brutal civil war will no doubt be welcomed by victims in Liberia,” said Elise Keppler, associate director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch. “The NPFL committed horrific abuses against civilians but no one has ever been held to account for the crimes. The Liberian authorities should themselves take steps to ensure that those responsible for civil-war-era crimes are brought to justice.”

Liberia has made no effort to hold to account those responsible for crimes that violate international law during the conflict in the country, from 1989 to 1996, which left tens of thousands dead. But this is the third arrest by European authorities of a suspect associated with atrocities in Liberia. The first case involved the NPFL Commander Martina Johnson, who was arrested in Belgium in September 2014, and the second was Alieu Kosiah, a commander from the opposing United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy who was arrested in Switzerland in November 2014.

Reeves Taylor is the first person to be arrested under UK universal jurisdiction laws for crimes committed in Africa. The UK has previously adjudicated three other cases under such laws. The first was the case of Anthony Sawoniuk, convicted for Nazi-related crimes under the War Crimes Act of 1991, which is specific to crimes committed during World War II. The second was the conviction of Faryadi Zardad, an Afghan warlord charged with torture. The third case was the charges of torture against Colonel Kumar Lama from Nepal, who was recently acquitted.


This article was originally published at Human Rights Watch on 3rd June 2017.

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