(New York, January 8, 2009) ˆ On Friday, January 9, 2009, sentencing in the first case in the United States of a person charged and convicted for torture committed abroad will take place in Miami before Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida at 8:30 a.m.
The defendant, "Chuckie" Taylor, is the son of the former Liberian President Charles Taylor. On October 30, 2008, he was convicted of torture committed while he headed a notorious paramilitary group in Liberia during his father‚s presidency between 1997 and 2003. The charges included executions; beatings; burning victims with cigarettes, molten plastic, wax, an iron, and scalding water; mutilating victims‚ genitals and other body parts; and shocking victims with an electrical device.
„Chuckie Taylor‚s prosecution for torture committed in Liberia is an important step in ensuring the United States is not a safe haven for human rights abusers,‰ said Elise Keppler, senior counsel with the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. „The case also has great significance for victims in Liberia.‰
The prosecution is the first under a 14-year-old federal law that allows the United States to prosecute torture committed overseas if the accused is in the United States or is an American citizen (18 USC § 2340A). The prosecution is one of the few cases to date anywhere for horrific human rights abuses committed during Liberia‚s recent wars.
At the sentencing, several victims who testified in the case are expected to make statements. The US government has requested a sentence of 147 years in prison.
„Torture is one of the gravest crimes, and the sentence should reflect its seriousness,‰ said Keppler. „Of course, more cases will also be needed to show that the Department of Justice is dedicated to ensuring justice for those who commit atrocities, no matter where they occur.‰
To read Human Rights Watch‚s news releases on the trial, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/10/30/us-first-verdict-overseas-torture; and http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/09/25/us-first-trial-overseas-torture
To read a Human Rights Watch question-and-answer document on the trial of Chuckie Taylor for torture, please visit:
To read a short article on the trial in the Human Rights Brief spring/summer 2008 issue, please visit:
For more information, please contact:
In New York, Elise Keppler (English): +1-917-687-8576 (mobile)
In Dakar, Corinne Dufka (English, French): +221-33-820-6125; or +221-77-783-3131 (mobile)
In Brussels, Géraldine Mattioli (English, French): +32-2-737-1487; or +32-48-557-7962 (mobile)