University of Pittsburgh
April 24, 2012

Pitt International Criminal Law Scholar Charles Jalloh Available to Comment on the Upcoming April 26 Judgment in the Historic Trial of Former Liberian President Charles Taylor

Contact:  412-624-4147


PITTSBURGH—On April 26, the Special Court for Sierra Leone plans to issue its final trial judgment in the case of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. The judgment will mark the end of the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s last trial. The conclusion of the case will be a landmark development in one of the highest profile trials in contemporary international criminal law and will be of major significance to those affected by the atrocities committed during Sierra Leone’s armed conflict, which lasted from 1991 to 2002. 

University of Pittsburgh Professor Charles Jalloh, former legal officer to the office of the principal defender of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and a leading expert on the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Charles Taylor case, is available to speak about the judgment. A participant during the opening of the Taylor trial on June 4, 2007, Jalloh believes the end of the case will be a significant development for Africa and the international community, regardless of the verdict.   

Jalloh was formerly legal advisor to the Office of the Principal Defender for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, associate legal officer in the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and a visiting scholar in the Office of the Public Counsel for the Defense in the International Criminal Court. Before engaging in international practice, he was legal counsel in the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Section in the Department of Justice (Canada).

According to Jalloh, the ruling in the Taylor case will be of unique importance in the history of international criminal law for three principal reasons. First, Taylor currently represents the only African leader to be prosecuted before an international criminal tribunal. Second, although Taylor was the leader of Liberia, he is being prosecuted for alleged crimes that occurred in the neighboring state of Sierra Leone. Finally, the case is also notable in that Liberia has traditionally been a strong ally of the United States, a country that played a crucial role in the creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and in helping restore peace and democracy to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Headquartered in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital, the Special Court for Sierra Leone was established through a bilateral agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone in January 2002. It is an independent judicial entity that was established to try those “who bear the greatest responsibility” for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed after November 1996 during the Sierra Leone civil war. The court has completed all its cases in Sierra Leone with convictions of all the defendants, who today are serving their sentences in Rwanda. 

Taylor, whose alleged role in Sierra Leone included trading guns for “blood diamonds,” is accused of fomenting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international law during Sierra Leone’s civil war. He was formally charged with 11 counts. His trial opened more than four years ago with the prosecution’s opening statement on June 4, 2007. The oral hearings phase of the trial concluded when the last defense witness took the stand on Nov. 12, 2010. Until a month ago, the scheduled completion of the case remained unknown, and Jalloh was the first commentator to publish an article calling on the tribunal to inform the people of Sierra Leone, the accused, and the international community the day its much-awaited trial judgment will be issued.

Educated at the University of Guelph and McGill and Oxford universities, Jalloh is one of the leading commentators on the Special Court for Sierra Leone as well as the rocky relationship between Africa and the International Criminal Court. His articles have appeared in such journals as The African Journal of International and Comparative Law, American Journal of International Law, Criminal Law Forum, International Criminal Law Review, and Michigan Journal of International Law. He is the editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Legal Studies and an invited advisory board member of the War Crimes Committee of the International Bar Association. 

Jalloh recently convened the first international conference to assess the legacy and contributions of the Special Court for Sierra Leone to Africa and International Criminal Justice at the University of Pittsburgh.




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