Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies


James L. Miglin


The indictment and arrest of Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed while Taylor was President of Liberia mark a significant development in the accountability of Heads of State. Yet the process by which the Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Taylor and then attempted to have him arrested and delivered to the Court, as well as the Appeals Chamber’s analysis of the legality of the indictment, revealed serious flaws and deficiencies. The Appeals Chamber misconstrued the legal foundation of the Special Court in deciding that Taylor, as a sitting Head of State, was not entitled to immunity from the process of the Special Court. Furthermore, the Appeals Chamber failed to distinguish between personal and functional immunities. The author argues that it would have been preferable, from a legal point of view, had the Appeals Chamber dismissed the indictment as a violation of Taylor’s personal immunity as a sitting Head of State and allowed a future indictment to go forward when Taylor no longer enjoyed such immunity. Whatever the legal weaknesses of the Appeals Chamber’s decision on the indictment, Taylor’s arrest underscored the structural limits on hybrid courts such as the Special Court, which is not able to effectively project any legal authority or influence beyond the borders of its host State.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.