The Chucky Taylor Trial: A Milestone For Justice, But A Call To Action
By Alphonso Nyenuh
For 14 years competing warring factions roamed the country killing, maiming and torturing people, leading to the death of up to 200,000 people, an internal displacement of over a million and forced over 800,000 people into refugee camps throughout the West African sub-region. The war also witnessed unspeakable crimes such as the disembowment of pregnant women, mass murders in the form of massacres, torture and rape. In spite of these horrendous acts no one has been prosecuted let alone convicted (until the prosecution of Charles Taylor Jr.). Those who bear responsibility for these grave abuses continue to walk scot free, many of them living in the comfort of the United States, some parading the corridors of power in the Liberian government while yet others bask in their loot as millionaires and big business people.
The Taylor Jr. conviction signals that all may not be lost after all, that justice may still be possible and that those who committed those horrible crimes may one day get their day of reckoning before the shield of justice.
2). A CALL TO ACTION: The Taylor Jr. conviction also represents a Call To Action to Liberians to demonstrate their much talked about desire for justice and accountability by pursuing the prosecution of those present in the US, be they US citizens, residents or visitors, who are known to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Liberian civil war.
The US Federal Extraterritorial Torture Statute ((18 USC § 2340A) under which ‘Chucky’ Taylor was prosecuted provides us an opportunity, but more importantly presents us with a challenge, especially those who have been advocating a war crimes tribunal and war crimes prosecutions, to take this issue of accountability for war crimes into our own hands; to go beyond the talk and walk the walk by undertaking concrete actions to ensure the prosecution of those Liberians residing in or just visiting the US who we know have committed abuses in Liberia.
The US Federal Extraterritorial Torture Statute provides for the prosecution of anyone present in the US, whether or not they are US citizens, who have committed torture, have conspired to commit torture or even attempted to commit torture abroad. This means that we can pursue the prosecution of those be they US citizens, green card holders or juts visitors- who have committed crimes against the people of Liberia.
For too long have we criticized and blamed the international community for not setting up a war crimes tribunal for us and for not prosecuting people responsible for war crimes against us. Now that the US justice system has acted and shown us the way; the ball is now squarely in our court.
So, rather than dwell on criticizing others we can now take charge of this issue individually or collectively by undertaking a number of actions, including alerting the US Justice Department of the presence of people in the United States who we know have committed torture and other crimes in Liberia, we can liaise with groups such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, etc to undertake investigations, and local human rights groups to gather evidence and pursue prosecutions, and we can even sue people who have committed crimes against us. By so doing we can ensure that the murder, torture, and suffering of those victims of the Liberian carnage do not go unpunished. We will also address the question of selective justice which has become the focus of the latest debate regarding prosecuting abuses committed in Liberia.
Our destiny lies in our own hands. IT IS TIME TO WALK THE WALK, ALONG WITH THE TALK