U.S. convicts Ex-Liberian President's son for torture in Liberia

[TamilNet, Friday, 31 October 2008, 12:11 GMT]
A federal jury in Miami Thursday convicted the son of ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor in the first test of American Law that gives prosecutors the power to bring charges for acts of torture committed in foreign lands, Washington Post reported. Human rights groups hailed the prosecution as a rare but critical use of a 16-year-old law that allows U.S. authorities to charge citizens with atrocities committed abroad, the paper added.

"We must . . . ensure that those who come here seeking freedom and the rule of law do not have to fear that their persecutor may become their neighbor," said Julie L. Myers, who heads U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Authorities say Taylor led a violent security force in Liberia while his father served as president of the African nation. The elite anti-terrorist unit initially protected the country's leaders and other dignitaries. But the squad later turned its energy toward training fighters and cracking down on political opponents, according to court papers.

Prosecutors accused Taylor of taking part in atrocities and directing subordinates to torture victims using hot irons, guns, knives and electrical devices from 1999 to 2002.

U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said he hopes the case will serve as a "model" for future prosecutions.

The law, Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA)  also applies to offenders who are in the United States, no matter their national origin. Taylor, who was born in Boston, had been in custody since late 2006, when he pleaded guilty in a separate case of passport fraud.

"Today's verdict is a signal to torturers around the world to beware," said Elise Keppler, senior counsel to Human Rights Watch. "The Department of Justice should make sure that when the appropriate case arises, they make use of these laws," the paper reported.


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