Agnès Reeves Taylor

24.10.2017 ( Last modified: 08.07.2020 )
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Agnes Reeves Taylor was born on 27 September 1965 in Liberia.In 1986, she married Charles Taylor, former director of Liberia’s General Service Administration in Ghana. In that period, Charles Taylor founded the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), a militia group whose aim was to oust Liberia’s then president Samuel Doe.

In 1989, the NPFL invaded Liberia triggering a brutal civil war in which more than 150.000 people died and half of the population fled the country. Between 1989 and 1991, many Liberian civilians of certain ethnic origin and soldiers of the Liberian armed forces were subjected to extreme violence and killed in the counties of Nimba and Bong.

Legal Procedure

On 1 June 2017, Agnes Reeves Taylor was arrested in her residence in East London by the UK Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit. Her arrest was based on information provided by Civitas Maxima and Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP – Liberian subsidiary of the Swiss NGO Civitas Maxima). She was charged on the following day with torture and conspiracy to commit torture when she was implicated with Charles Taylor’s rebel group, the NPFL, during the First Liberian Civil War. The charges referred to the events which allegedly occurred between 23 December 1989 and 1 January 1991 such as torture in Gbarngam in the center of Liberia and acts of torture committed in Gborplay in the north-east of the country. Agnes Reeves Taylor allegedly allowed rape of seven women in Charles Taylor’s rebel headquarters.

On 3 June 2017, she appeared before the Westminster’s Magistrate Court. Her request for bail was denied and she remained in custody.

A preliminary hearing was held on 30 June 2017 before the Westminster Magistrate Court.

On 11 August 2017, the tribunal refused to grant her a provisional release.

On 19 October 2018, Agnes Reeves Taylor pleaded non-guilty concerning all of the eight charges which were raised against her.

On 24 and 25 June 2019, an appeal on preliminary question (the interpretation of the term ‘person acting in an official capacity’ in case of non-state actors) was heard.

The Supreme Court issued its decision on 13 November 2019, quashing the Court of Appeal’s decision, and sending back the application for dismissal to the Central Criminal Court judge for reevaluation in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Supreme Court on 13 November 2019 defined a ”person acting in an official capacity” as including “a person who acts or purports to act, otherwise than in a private and individual capacity, for or on behalf of an organisation or body which exercises, in the territory controlled by that organisation or body and in which the relevant conduct occurs, functions normally exercised by governments over their civilian populations […] whether acting in peace time or in a situation of armed conflict.” The majority judgment emphasized that for the purposes of section 134, the exercise of a governmental function must be distinguished from purely military activity that does not involve the exercise of ocial or quasi-ocial powers, but noted that it would be necessary to make allowance for the particular conditions which may make administration dicult and for dierent views of appropriate structures of government.

On 6 December 2019, the Central Criminal Court judge dismissed all charges against Agnes Reeves Taylor. Applying the test set out by the Supreme Court majority, he held that, at the time of each alleged offense, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) did not exercise “functions normally exercised by governments over their civilian populations”. Accordingly, the actions of Agnes Reeves Taylor did not fall under section 134 of the UK Criminal Justice Act 1988.


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