Charles Taylor
President of Liberia
Charles Taylor
Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor is a Liberian politician who was the 22nd President of Liberia, serving from 2 August 1997 until his resignation on 11 August 2003. Born in Arthington, Montserrado County, Liberia, Taylor earned a degree at Bentley College in the United States before returning to Liberia to work in the government of Samuel Doe. After being removed for embezzlement, he eventually arrived in Libya, where he was trained as a guerilla fighter.
Biography
Charles Taylor's personal information overview.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2015
    Age 67
    Taylor's attorneys filed a motion to have him transferred to a prison in Rwanda, but in March 2015 the motion was denied and he was ordered to continue serving his sentence in the U.K.
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  • 2014
    Age 66
    In 2014, Victoria was denied a visa to visit her husband while he serves his sentence in the United Kingdom. Taylor also has another son, a U.S. citizen named Charles McArther Emmanuel, born to his college girlfriend. Emmanuel was arrested in 2006 after entering the United States and was charged with three counts, including participation in torture while serving in the Anti-Terrorist Unit in Liberia during his father's presidency.
    More Details Hide Details The law that prosecuted Taylor was put in place in 1994, before "extraordinary rendition" in an attempt to prevent U.S. citizens from committing acts of torture overseas. To date, this is the only prosecuted case. In October 2008, Emmanuel was convicted on all three counts and sentenced to 97 years in prison.
  • 2013
    Age 65
    On 15 October 2013 he was transferred to British custody, and began serving his sentence at HM Prison Frankland in County Durham, England.
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    Taylor appealed against the verdict, but on 26 September 2013 Appeals Chamber of the Special Court confirmed his guilt and the penalty of 50 years in prison.
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  • 2012
    Age 64
    He was found guilty in April 2012 of all eleven charges levied by the Special Court, including terror, murder and rape.
    More Details Hide Details In May 2012, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Reading the sentencing statement, Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said: "The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history."
  • 2011
    Age 63
    Phillip Taylor, Taylor's son with Jewel, remained in Liberia following his father's extradition to the SCSL. He was arrested by Liberian police officials on 5 March 2011 and charged with attempted murder in connection with an assault on the son of an immigration officer who had assisted in Charles Taylor's extradition; the mother of the victim claimed that Phillip Taylor had sworn vengeance against the immigration officer.
    More Details Hide Details He was arrested at Buchanan in Grand Bassa County, allegedly while attempting to cross the border into the Ivory Coast. Taylor has three children with his second wife Victoria Addison Taylor; the youngest, Charlize, was born in March 2010.
    On 8 February 2011, the trial court ruled in a 2–1 decision that it would not accept Taylor's trial summary, as the summary had not been submitted by the January 14 deadline.
    More Details Hide Details In response, Taylor and his counsel boycotted the trial and refused an order by the court to begin closing arguments. This boycott came soon after the 2010 leak of American diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, in which the United States discussed the possibility of extraditing Taylor for prosecution in the United States in the event of his acquittal by the SCSL. Taylor's counsel cited the leaked cable and the court's decision as evidence of an international conspiracy against Taylor. On 3 March, the appeals court of the SCSL overturned the trial court's decision, ruling that as the trial court had not established that Taylor had been counseled by the court and personally indicated his intent to waive his right to a trial summary, Taylor's due process rights would be violated by preventing him from submitting a trial summary. The appeals court ordered the trial court to accept the summary and set a date for the beginning of closing arguments. On 11 March, the closing arguments ended and it was announced that the court would begin the process to reach a verdict.
  • 2009
    Age 61
    Taylor testified in his own defence from July through November 2009.
    More Details Hide Details The defence rested its case on 12 November 2010, with closing arguments set for early February 2011.
    On 4 May 2009, a defence motion for a judgment on acquittal was dismissed, and arguments for Taylor's defence began in July 2009.
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    In January 2009, the prosecution finished presenting its evidence against Taylor and closed its case on 27 February 2009.
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  • FIFTIES
  • 2007
    Age 59
    On 20 August 2007, Taylor's defence now led by Courtenay Griffiths obtained a postponement of the trial until 7 January 2008.
    More Details Hide Details During the trial, the chief prosecutor alleged that a key insider witness who testified against Taylor went into hiding after being threatened for giving evidence against Taylor. Furthermore, Joseph "Zigzag" Marzah, a former military commander, testified that Charles Taylor celebrated his new-found status during the civil war by ordering human sacrifice, including the killings of Taylor's opponents and allies that were perceived to have betrayed Taylor, and by having a pregnant woman buried alive in sand. Marzah also accused Taylor of forcing cannibalism on his soldiers in order to terrorize their enemies.
    When Taylor's trial opened 4 June 2007, Taylor boycotted the proceeding and was not present.
    More Details Hide Details Through a letter that was read by his attorney to the court, he justified his absence by alleging that at that moment he was not ensured a fair and impartial trial.
  • 2006
    Age 58
    The Association for the Legal Defence of Charles G. Taylor was established in June 2006 to assist in his legal defence.
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    On 16 June 2006, the United Nations Security Council agreed unanimously to allow Taylor to be sent to Leidschendam for trial; on 20 June 2006, Taylor was extradited and flown to Rotterdam Airport in the Netherlands.
    More Details Hide Details He was taken into custody and held in the detention centre of the International Criminal Court, located in the Scheveningen section of The Hague.
    On 15 June 2006, the British government agreed to jail Taylor in the United Kingdom in the event that he is convicted by the SCSL.
    More Details Hide Details This fulfilled a condition laid down by the Dutch government, who had stated they were willing to host the trial but would not jail him if convicted. British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett stated that new legislation would be required to accommodate this arrangement. While awaiting his extradition to the Netherlands, Taylor was held in a UN jail in Freetown.
    In early June 2006, the decision on whether to hold Taylor's trial in Freetown or in Leidschendam had not yet been made by the new SCSL president, George Gelaga King.
    More Details Hide Details King's predecessor had pushed for the trial to be held abroad because of fear that a local trial would be politically destabilizing in an area where Taylor still had influence. The Appeals Chamber of the Special Court dismissed a motion by Taylor's defence team, who argued that their client could not get a fair trial there and also wanted the Special Court to withdraw the request to move the trial to Leidschendam.
    At Taylor's initial appearance before the court on 3 April 2006, he entered a plea of not guilty.
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    On 16 March 2006, a SCSL judge gave leave to amend the indictment against Taylor.
    More Details Hide Details Under the amended indictment, Taylor was charged with 11 counts.
    On 17 March 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the newly elected President of Liberia, submitted an official request to Nigeria for Taylor's extradition.
    More Details Hide Details This request was granted on 25 March, whereby Nigeria agreed to release Taylor to stand trial in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Nigeria agreed only to release Taylor and not to extradite him, as no extradition treaty existed between the two countries. Three days after Nigeria announced its intent to transfer Taylor to Liberia, the leader disappeared from the seaside villa where he had been living in exile. A week before that, Nigerian authorities had taken the unusual step of allowing local press to accompany census takers into Taylor’s Calabar compound. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was scheduled to meet with President Bush less than 48 hours after Taylor was reported missing. Speculation ensued that Bush would refuse to meet with Obasanjo if Taylor were not apprehended. Less than 12 hours prior to the scheduled meeting between the two heads of state, Taylor was reported apprehended en route to Liberia.
    That year, he resigned, as a result of growing international pressure, and went into exile in Nigeria. In 2006, the newly elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, formally requested his extradition.
    More Details Hide Details He was detained by UN authorities in Sierra Leone and then at the Penitentiary Institution Haaglanden in The Hague, awaiting trial by the Special Court.
  • 2003
    Age 55
    In November 2003, the United States Congress passed a bill that included a reward offer of two million dollars for Taylor's capture.
    More Details Hide Details While the peace agreement had guaranteed Taylor safe exile in Nigeria, it also required that he refrain from influencing Liberian politics. His critics said he disregarded this prohibition. On 4 December, Interpol issued a red notice regarding Taylor, suggesting that countries had a duty to arrest him. Taylor was placed on Interpol's Most Wanted list, declaring him wanted for crimes against humanity and breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention, and noting that he should be considered dangerous. Nigeria stated it would not submit to Interpol's demands, agreeing to deliver Taylor to Liberia only in the event that the President of Liberia requested his return.
    In July 2003, LURD initiated a siege of Monrovia, and several bloody battles were fought as Taylor's forces halted rebel attempts to capture the city.
    More Details Hide Details The pressure on Taylor increased as U.S. President George W. Bush twice that month stated that Taylor "must leave Liberia". On 9 July, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo offered Taylor exile in his country on the condition that Taylor stay out of Liberian politics. Taylor insisted that he would resign only if U.S. peacekeeping troops were deployed to Liberia. Bush publicly called upon Taylor to resign and leave the country in order for any American involvement to be considered. Meanwhile, several African states, in particular the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) under the leadership of Nigeria, sent troops under the banner of ECOMIL to Liberia. Logistical support was provided by a California company called PAE Government Services Inc., which was given a $10 million contract by the U.S. State Department. On 6 August, a 32-member U.S. military assessment team were deployed as a liaison with the ECOWAS troops, landing from a Marine Expeditionary Unit with three U.S. amphibious ships waiting off the Liberian coast.
    In June 2003, the Prosecutor to the Special Court unsealed the indictment and announced publicly that Taylor was charged with war crimes.
    More Details Hide Details The indictment asserted that Taylor created and backed the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, who were accused of a range of atrocities, including the use of child soldiers. The Prosecutor also said that Taylor's administration had harbored members of Al-Qaeda sought in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The indictment was unsealed during Taylor's official visit to Ghana, where he was participating in peace talks with MODEL and LURD officials. With the backing of South African president Thabo Mbeki and against the urging of Sierra Leone president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Ghana declined to detain Taylor, who returned to Monrovia. During Taylor's absence for the peace talks in Ghana, the U.S. government was alleged to have urged Vice President Moses Blah to seize power. Upon his return, Taylor briefly dismissed Blah from his post, only to reinstate him a few days later.
    The SCSL prosecutor originally indicted Taylor on 3 March 2003 on a 17-counts for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone.
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    On 7 March 2003, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) issued a sealed indictment for Taylor.
    More Details Hide Details Earlier that year, Liberian forces had killed Sam Bockarie, a leading member of the RUF in Sierra Leone, in a shootout under Taylor's orders. Some have claimed that Taylor ordered Bockarie killed in order to prevent the leader from testifying against him at the SCSL.
  • 1999
    Age 51
    In 1999, a rebellion against Taylor began in northern Liberia, led by a group calling itself Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).
    More Details Hide Details This group was frequently accused of atrocities, and is thought to have been backed by the government of neighboring Guinea. This uprising signaled the beginning of the Second Liberian Civil War. By early 2003, LURD had gained control of northern Liberia. That year, a second Ivorian-backed rebel group, Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), emerged in southern Liberia and achieved rapid successes. By the summer, Taylor's government controlled only about a third of Liberia: Monrovia and the central part of the country. More than one-third of the total population lived in this area.
  • FORTIES
  • 1997
    Age 49
    In 1997 Taylor married Jewel Taylor, with whom he has one son. She filed for divorce in 2005, citing her husband's exile in Nigeria and the difficulty of visiting him due to a UN travel ban on her. The divorce was granted in 2006.
    More Details Hide Details Jewel Taylor currently serves as the senior senator from Bong County.
    Following a peace deal that ended the war, Taylor coerced the population into electing him president in the 1997 general election by threatening to resume the war otherwise.
    More Details Hide Details During his term of office, Taylor was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of his involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002). Domestically, opposition to his regime grew, culminating in the outbreak of the Second Liberian Civil War (1999–2003). By 2003, Taylor had lost control of much of the countryside and was formally indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
  • 1996
    Age 48
    After the official end of the civil war in 1996, Taylor ran for president in the 1997 general election.
    More Details Hide Details He campaigned on the notorious slogan "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him." The elections were overseen by the United Nations' peacekeeping mission, United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia, along with a contingent from the Economic Community of West African States. Taylor won the election in a landslide, garnering 75 percent of the vote. Although the election was widely reckoned as free and fair by international observers, Taylor had a huge advantage going into it. He had already taken over the former state radio station and took advantage of its access. Additionally, there was widespread fear in the country that Taylor would resume the war if he lost. During his time in office, Taylor cut the size of the Armed Forces of Liberia, dismissing 2,400–2,600 former personnel, many of whom were ethnic Krahn brought in by former President Doe to give advantage to his people. In its place, Taylor installed the Anti-Terrorist Unit, the Special Operations Division of the Liberian National Police (LNP), which he used as his own private army.
  • 1994
    Age 46
    According to two Operation Blessing pilots who reported this incident in 1994 to the Commonwealth of Virginia for investigation, Robertson used his Operation Blessing planes to haul diamond-mining equipment to his new mines in Liberia.
    More Details Hide Details At the same time, Robertson was telling his 700 Club viewers that the planes were sending relief supplies to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda. The subsequent investigation by the Commonwealth of Virginia concluded that Robertson diverted his ministry's donations to the Liberian diamond-mining operation. Attorney General of Virginia Mark Earley blocked any prosecution against Robertson, as the relief supplies were also sent.
  • 1990
    Age 42
    In September 1990, Johnson captured Monrovia, depriving Taylor of outright victory.
    More Details Hide Details Johnson and his forces captured and tortured Doe to death, resulting in a violent political fragmentation of the country. The civil war turned into an ethnic conflict, with seven factions among indigenous peoples and the Americo-Liberians fighting for control of Liberia's resources (especially iron ore, diamonds, timber, and rubber). According to a 2 June 1999 article in The Virginian-Pilot, Taylor had extensive business dealings with American televangelist Pat Robertson during the civil war. He gave Robertson the rights to mine for diamonds in Liberia.
    By 1990, his forces soon controlled most of the country.
    More Details Hide Details That same year, Prince Johnson, a senior commander of Taylor's NPFL, broke away and formed the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL).
  • 1989
    Age 41
    In December 1989, Taylor launched a Gaddafi-funded armed uprising from the Ivory Coast into Liberia to overthrow the Doe regime, leading to the First Liberian Civil War.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1985
    Age 37
    On 15 September 1985, Taylor and four other inmates escaped from the jail.
    More Details Hide Details Two days later, The Boston Globe reported that they sawed through a bar covering a window in a dormitory room, after which they lowered themselves on knotted sheets and escaped into nearby woods by climbing a fence. Shortly thereafter, Taylor and two other escapees were met at nearby Jordan Hospital by Taylor's wife, Enid, and Taylor's sister-in-law, Lucia Holmes Toweh. They drove a getaway car to Staten Island in New York, where Taylor disappeared. All four of Taylor's fellow escapees, as well as Enid and Toweh, were later apprehended. In July 2009, Taylor claimed at his trial that US CIA agents had helped him escape from the maximum security prison in Boston in 1985. This was during his trial by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. The US Defence Intelligence Agency confirmed that Taylor first started working with US intelligence in the 1980s but refused to give details of his role or US actions, citing national security.
  • 1984
    Age 36
    Taylor fled to the United States but was arrested on 21 May 1984 by two US Deputy Marshals in Somerville, Massachusetts, on a warrant for extradition to face charges of embezzling $1 million of government funds while the GSA boss.
    More Details Hide Details Citing a fear of assassination by Liberian agents, Taylor fought extradition from the safety of jail with the help of a legal team led by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. His lawyers' primary arguments before US District Magistrate Robert J. DeGiacomo stated that his alleged acts of lawbreaking in Liberia were political rather than criminal in nature and that the extradition treaty between the two republics had lapsed. In response, Assistant United States Attorney Richard G. Stearns argued that Liberia wished to charge Taylor with theft in office, rather than with political crimes, and that any international political decisions that could hold up the trial should be made only by the US State Department. Stearns' arguments were reinforced by Liberian Justice Minister Jenkins Scott, who flew to the United States to testify at the proceedings. While awaiting the conclusion of the extradition hearing, Taylor was detained in the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.
  • 1983
    Age 35
    He was sacked in May 1983 for embezzling an estimated $1,000,000 and sending the funds to an American bank account.
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  • 1980
    Age 32
    Taylor supported the 12 April 1980 coup led by Samuel Doe, which resulted in the murder of President William R. Tolbert, Jr. and seizure of power by Doe.
    More Details Hide Details Taylor was appointed to the position of Director General of the General Services Agency (GSA), a position that left him in charge of purchasing for the Liberian government.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1948
    Age 0
    Taylor was born in Arthington, a town near the capital of Monrovia, Liberia, on 28 January 1948, to Nelson and Bernice Taylor.
    More Details Hide Details He took the name "Ghankay" later on, possibly to please and gain favor with indigenous Liberians. His mother was a member of the Gola ethnic group, part of the 95% of the people who are indigenous to Liberia. According to most reports, his father was an Americo-Liberian (descended from African-American colonists) who worked as a teacher, sharecropper, lawyer and judge.
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