Charles Taylor guilty: Judgment excerpts

People watch the trial of Liberian ex-leader Charles Taylor (on screen) taking place in the Hague, inside the Special Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone on Friday As the verdict was read out in The Hague, crowds watched in Sierra Leone

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.

The judgment, from judges at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, saw him found guilty beyond reasonable doubt in connection with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Here are key excerpts from the 44-page summary of the judgment. The full written judgment is not yet available.

The findings relate solely to the "indictment period" - the period from November 1996 to January 2002 when the events took place over which Taylor was charged.

Taylor is referred to as "the Accused" throughout.

Operation 'No Living Thing'

Start Quote

Judge Richard Lussick

The Accused emphasised to [rebel leader] Bockarie the need to... make the operation 'fearful'”

End Quote Judge Richard Lussick, reading out trial verdict

[Judgment details the assistance provided by Taylor to the renegade Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) junta during their operations to retake important districts and cities in Sierra Leone in 1998 and 1999, after they were thrown out by the Ecomog West African intervention force]

From the time of the Ecomog Intervention, the Accused and his subordinates communicated to the AFRC/RUF forces the imperative to maintain control over Kono, a diamondiferous area… Once Kono had been recaptured, the Accused told [RUF/AFRC leader Sam] Bockarie to be sure to maintain control of Kono for the purpose of trading diamonds with him for arms and ammunition. ...

In addition to urging the RUF and AFRC to capture and hold Kono, the Accused supplied arms and ammunition for the operations in the Kono District in early 1998 and for Operation Fitti-Fatta [an attempt to re-take Koidu Town]. ...

In November/December 1998, when Bockarie met with the Accused in Monrovia, the Accused jointly designed with Bockarie the two-pronged attack on Kono, Kenema and Freetown… the Accused emphasised to Bockarie the need to first attack Kono District and told Bockarie to make the operation "fearful" in order to pressure the Government of Sierra Leone into negotiations on the release of Foday Sankoh from prison, as well as to use "all means" to get to Freetown. Subsequently, Bockarie named the operation "Operation No Living Thing," implying that anything that stood in their way should be eliminated. ...


  • 420 trial days over three years and 10 months
  • 115 witnesses testified
  • 1,522 exhibits admitted as evidence
  • 49,622 pages of trial records transcribed
  • 281 written interlocutory decisions issued by the Trial Chamber

Bockarie was in frequent contact via radio or satellite phone with the Accused in December 1998 and January 1999... However, it is not clear that the Accused had any level of control over the conduct of these operations. ...

In addition to planning and advising on the Kono-Freetown operation, the Accused also provided military and other support… The Accused also sent personnel. ...

Operation support: In addition to support for specific military operations, the Accused provided to the RUF, and the RUF/AFRC alliance, communications support, financial support, military training, technical support and other operational support. Of these, communications support, facilitation and transport of materiel and personnel and the provision of a guesthouse to the RUF were sustained and significant. ...

The RUF guesthouse provided a base for the RUF in Monrovia, which facilitated the regular transfers of arms and ammunition from the Accused to the RUF, as well as diamonds from the RUF to the Accused, transactions which played a vital role in the military operations of the RUF in which crimes were committed. ...


The Trial Chamber further finds that during the Indictment period, the Accused provided much needed road and air transportation to the RUF of arms and ammunition into RUF territory. Materiel was also escorted across military checkpoints by security personnel working for the Accused… [playing] a vital role in the operations of the RUF/AFRC during a period when an international arms embargo was in force. ...

The Accused also provided financial support, military training, technical support and other operational support to the RUF, including medical support. ...

In preparation for the Fitti-Fatta mission in mid-1998, the Accused sent 'herbalists' who marked fighters in Buedu and in Kono in order to bolster their confidence for the mission to recapture Kono. Other support included the provision of goods such as food, clothing, cigarettes, alcohol and other supplies to the RUF by the Accused. ...

Arms and Ammunition: The Accused directly supplied arms and ammunition to the RUF/AFRC, as well as facilitating the supply of arms and ammunition to the RUF/AFRC from outside Liberia. ...

The Accused facilitated two large shipments of ammunition. The first occurred in late 1997. In around September 1997, the Accused sent [Liberian emissary] Ibrahim Bah to Freetown to meet with Sam Bockarie and [AFRC junta leader] Johnny Paul Koroma to make arrangements for the procurement of arms and ammunition. Bah was given 90 carats of diamonds and US$ 90,000 to pay for the shipment. ... Materiel from this shipment was used by the AFRC/RUF forces in fighting Ecomog and SLPP [Sierra Leone People's Party] forces in Freetown before, during and after the Intervention, in the Junta mining operations at Tongo Fields prior to the Ecomog Intervention, in "Operation Pay Yourself" and subsequent offensives on Kono, as well as in the commission of crimes during those operations. ...

'Critical' arms

The Accused also facilitated a shipment of materiel around November 1998 from Burkina Faso [which was transported to Sierra Leone]… The Trial Chamber finds that the Accused was instrumental in procuring and transporting this large quantity of arms and ammunition for the RUF, that he was paid for it with diamonds, and that he kept some of the shipment for his own purposes. The shipment from Burkina Faso was unprecedented in volume and, as noted previously, was critical in the December 1998 and January 1999 offensives. ...

The Trial Chamber considered the Defence submission that other sources of military equipment for the RUF and AFRC far outweighed supplies allegedly provided by the Accused... However, these sources of materiel were of minor importance in comparison to those supplied or facilitated by the Accused... The materiel provided or facilitated by the Accused was critical in enabling the operational strategy of the RUF and the AFRC during the Indictment period. ...

Military Personnel: As previously noted, approximately 20 former NPFL [Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia] fighters who had been integrated into the Armed Forces of Liberia… were sent by the Accused from Liberia to Sierra Leone where they joined the RUF/AFRC forces in Sierra Leone and participated in attacks in which crimes were committed.

Diamonds: The Trial Chamber finds that there was a continuous supply by the AFRC/RUF of diamonds mined from areas in Sierra Leone to the Accused, often in exchange for arms and ammunition. ...

45-carat diamond

In March 2000, Foday Sankoh visited South Africa and travelled through Monrovia on his way back to Sierra Leone, meeting with the Accused in Monrovia. According to one witness, among the diamonds delivered to the Accused during this meeting were a 45 carat diamond and two 25 carat diamonds. ...

The Accused also provided diesel fuel for the Caterpillars at the diamond mining sites in Sierra Leone, and equipment for use in mining diamonds to the RUF on at least one occasion between 1998 and 2002. ...

The Peace Process: The Trial Chamber... finds that while the Accused publicly played a substantial role in the Sierra Leone peace process... secretly he was fuelling hostilities between the AFRC/RUF and the democratically elected authorities in Sierra Leone, by urging the former not to disarm and actively providing them with arms and ammunition, acting, as the Prosecution described, as "a two-headed Janus".

Knowledge of the Accused of Crimes Committed in Sierra Leone: Based on [the] evidence, and the testimony of the Accused himself, the Trial Chamber finds that the Accused was aware of the crimes committed by RUF/AFRC forces against civilians, including murder, abduction of civilian including children, rape, amputation and looting, as early as August 1997 when he became President of Liberia.

No 'command and control'

The Trial Chamber is of the view that the Accused had substantial influence over the leadership of the RUF, and to a lesser extent that of the AFRC. However, that substantial influence over the conduct of others fell short of "effective command and control" as demonstrated by the evidence.

…while the Trial Chamber found that the Accused provided significant operational and military support to the RUF, particularly after he became President of Liberia, the evidence does not establish that this support was provided pursuant to a common plan in the context of a joint criminal enterprise.

Responsibility under Article 6(1) for Aiding and Abetting: "Aiding and abetting" requires that the accused gave practical assistance, encouragement, or moral support which had a substantial effect on the perpetration of a crime.

Taylor timeline

Sierra Leone-Liberia map

• 1989: Launches rebellion in Liberia

• 1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone

• 1997: Elected president after a 1995 peace deal

• 1999: Liberia's Lurd rebels start an insurrection to oust Mr Taylor

• June 2003: Arrest warrant issued; two months later he steps down and goes into exile to Nigeria

• March 2006: Arrested after a failed escape bid and sent to Sierra Leone

• June 2007: His trial opens - hosted in The Hague for security reasons

• April 2012: Convicted of aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes

The Trial Chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the Accused provided arms and ammunition, military personnel, operational support, moral support and ongoing guidance to the RUF, AFRC, AFRC/RUF Junta or alliance, and Liberian fighters for military operations during the Indictment period. ...

'Criminally responsible'

For the foregoing reasons, the Trial Chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the Accused is criminally responsible pursuant to Article 6(1) of the Statute for aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes set forth in Counts 1 to 11 of the Indictment

Planning: The Trial Chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the Accused is criminally responsible pursuant to Article 6(1) for planning the crimes committed by members of the RUF, AFRC, AFRC/RUF Junta or alliance and Liberian fighters in the attacks on Kono and Makeni, in the invasion of Freetown and during the retreat from Freetown.

Ordering: The Trial Chamber has found that while the Accused held a position of authority amongst the RUF and RUF/AFRC, the instructions and guidance which he gave to the RUF and RUF/AFRC were generally of an advisory nature and at times were in fact not followed by the RUF/AFRC leadership. For these reasons, the Trial Chamber finds that the Accused cannot be held responsible for ordering the commission of crimes.

Instigating: The Trial Chamber, having already found that the Accused is criminally responsible for aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes in Counts 1-11 of the Indictment, does not find that the Accused also instigated those crimes.


Having considered all the evidence and the arguments of the parties... the Trial Chamber unanimously finds you [Charles Taylor] guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of the following crimes pursuant to Article 6.1 of the Statute during the Indictment period, and planning the commission of the following crimes in the attacks on Kono and Makeni in December 1998, and in the invasion of and retreat from Freetown between December 1998 and February 1999:

  • Count 1: Acts of terrorism
  • Count 2: Murder
  • Count 3: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons
  • Count 4: Rape
  • Count 5: Sexual slavery
  • Count 6: Outrages upon personal dignity
  • Count 7: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment
  • Count 8: Other inhumane acts
  • Count 9: Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities
  • Count 10: Enslavement
  • Count 11: Pillage

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