Liberia: Chucky Taylor Apologizes for War Crimes

Chucky Taylor (with cigar) with Benjamin Yeaten (left) (Photo courtesy of Johnny Dwyer and Lynn Henderson) .  

...… But many question the sincerity of his apology 

The son of a Liberian President who became notorious for “electric shocks on the genitals, burning victims with cigarettes and rubbing hot irons, and melting plastic into wounds” has apologized for his role in the country's 14 years of brutal civil war.

Roy Belfast (also known as ‘Chucky’), who once upon a time head his father Charles Taylor’s fearsome Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), argued that he is aware that his actions caused untold pains for lots of people and their generation as well.

“I want to formally apologize for being a part of any negative thing that may have had any impact on our people. I apologize for not advocating for those who I should have advocated for,” said Chucky, who now claimed that his name has been changed to Gormai Taylor for re-identification. “I want to formally apologize for having the ignorance of my youth guard my understanding… any of us would like to believe that what we saw in those days was for a greater good.”

Chucky then claimed that his action came as a result of being surrounded by sycophants, and individuals who did not provide him proper advice as a young man. 

“I am truly sorry, but I understand my errors and I pray to the almighty Creator that I have an opportunity at some stage to contribute to that correction,” Chucky said during an interview with Henry P. Costa from the United States. “Because true reconciliation is a permanent exercise. This is not something that has to just be spoken about. And more importantly, God willing and the respect of our people, based upon actions, not just words.”

Chucky added that he partly takes the blame for what people think of him but “it is my inherent introversive nature.

“I am not one who yearns for attention or popularity. Very few people knew me or interacted with me in Liberia. And I created that mistake, so to speak,” Chucky explained. “True men are straight. They control themselves, and attach themselves to a greater cause and make readjustment and face up to the states as men. “I would like to make a full presentation before our people because context is important. I was not the commander of the ATU but to say that none of us made a contribution in securing [President] Taylor in securing him, will be wrong. But I will also say to the Liberian people they were personal not only against my life but against the old man."

Chucky’s life

Born on February 12, 1978, in Boston, Chucky whose legal name is Roy Belfast had a rough upbringing. He lived much of his life in Orlando, Florida, with his mother, Bernice Emmanuel, a college girlfriend of his father.

And in 1994, according to Wikipedia, he was involved in an altercation with deputies of Orange County, Florida, and then sent to Liberia to live with his father, who in turn enrolled him in the Accra Academy, an elite boarding school in Ghana.

At Accra Academy, he was expelled and, according to Johnny Dwyer of The Guardian, possession of alcohol and illegal drugs was reportedly the reason. He later attended the College of West Africa in Monrovia, and the principal of that school also expelled him.

According to US prosecutors, when in Liberia Chucky headed the "Demon Forces,” a paramilitary, anti-terrorism security unit for Charles Taylor in the ATU. Elise Keppler, a counsel for the International Justice Program of Human Rights Watch, said that the “Demon Forces” “did things like beating people to death, burying them alive, rape – the most horrible kind of war crimes.” 

US prosecutors also charged that the “Demon Forces” engaged in torture and attempted to silence critics of Charles Taylor. At his trial, Rufus Kpadeh, a former prisoner in Liberia, testified that Chunky’s forces coerced prisoners into engaging in sexual acts while he laughed. And on October 30, 2008, a jury convicted Emmanuel of several counts, including one of torture, one of conspiracy to commit torture, and one of possession of a firearm while committing a violent crime. On January 8, 2009, Judge Cecilia Altonaga sentenced Taylor to 97 years in prison; although he has been appealing his conviction.

Also, the World Organization for Human Rights USA filed a civil suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on behalf of five of Taylor Jr.'s victims pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act and won by default judgment on all counts and the civil trial to determine damages took place in late December 2009 and January 2010. Chucky who was arrested in 2016 while flying from Trinidad to Miami under a falsifying name, became the first US citizen prosecuted under a 1994 law that prohibits American citizens from participating in torture outside of the United States.

Meanwhile, Chucky Taylor’s apology has been questioned by some Liberians who believe he intended to fight his appeal against conviction after launching an online fundraiser in a bid to hire a team of lawyers to investigate what he termed as gross errors in the trial that led to his incarceration.

Chucky, according to a FrontPage Africa report, claims that the charges against him were flawed, as a result, he has launched a fundraiser in hopes of raising money to appeal his conviction.

“I’m trying to raise between US$100K to $US150K. I want to try and hire a major law firm in DC to be able to lobby this case in DC that will gain the attention of Congress or the justice department because there are a lot of misrepresentations or misconduct that have taken place since this litigation in 2017.”

But in the Costa interview, he denied that his apology is part of a strategy to get him free and is in no way connected to his freedom.

“But I really want to dig into this because people don’t understand that this apology is not connected to my freedom per se. This case is predicated upon law and facts. This of course should underscore how important and close to my heart this formal apology is,” he added. 

Chucky added, if his apology is placed in a different context, people will appreciate it, so it is important for him to contribute to the process of reconciliation by issuing a formal apology. 

“And more importantly God willing, and the respect of our people, based upon actions, not just words,” the U.S.-born Chucky noted.

Chucky added that having self-educated himself, pursued a vigorous formal education, learning about Pan-Africanism, post-African history, specifically in the independence era of the continent,  he feels it is mandatory to make the apology.

“I have been litigating this case since 2017 and I have learned a lot. I wanted to take the world by surprise to speak. I have been hit by tons of misrepresentations by people,” Chucky noted. “Being surrounded by prosecutors with highly Federal rulings by Courts, I come to the conclusion that the law alone will not get this case overturned. No man is an island but I believe in self-reliance and I fought hard all of these years diligently.”