The son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor was indicted Wednesday by a court in Miami on charges of committing torture while he was chief of the notorious anti-terrorist unit.  Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Chuckie Taylor junior, was charged with committing torture overseas as a U.S. citizen as well as conspiracy. He could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.  Chuckie Taylor was already in custody in Miami awaiting sentencing for falsifying his father?s name to get a passport.

Ellise Keppler is counsel for the international justice program at Human Rights Watch. She explains the importance of the indictment.

?From our perspective, this indictment is a crucial step by the U.S. government in insuring justice for torture. It?s important for the U.S., but it?s also important, especially for Liberian victims. This would be the U.S. government?s first ever charges on torture committed abroad and it?s a very important step for victims in Liberia who have suffered by Chuckie Taylor?s alleged crimes,? she said.

Keppler said international rights groups have been following the Chuckie Taylor case for some time.

?Human Rights Watch has gathered information over the years regarding torture and war crimes that Chuckie Taylor is linked to, particularly in his role as head of the anti-terrorist unit in Liberia during this period when his father, Charles Taylor was president of Liberia. And this includes torture such as beating people to death, war crimes, including extra-judicial executions, a variety of serious crimes committed against Liberians,? Keppler said.

Some Liberians have said that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has not been moving fast enough to purge the country of other human rights violators like Chuckie Taylor. Keppler said there must be accountability for all human rights abuses.

?Human Rights Watch believes it?s absolutely essential that there be justice for serious crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture committed in Liberia or anywhere else. And it would be very important that there be accountability for those crimes in Liberia,? she said.

Chuckie Taylor?s father is awaiting trial in The Hague, Netherlands on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Sierra Leone civil war. Keppler said the trial of Taylor senior could start early next year.

?At this point there are status conferences happening, and I understand that the trial, at least right now, is schedule to begin in April,? she said.

Keppler said the indictment of Chuckie Taylor sends a strong message.

?It?s a very important signal of U.S. commitment to ensuring justice for torture, and we?ll be looking to see what the next steps are. We see it as a precedent and hope that this would be the beginning of more cases of this kind. The law on torture committed abroad has been on the books for than a decade but has never been applied,? she said. 

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