No Safe Haven for Human Rights Violators
Human Rights Violators
No Safe Haven in the U.S.
As the commander of a paramilitary security force in the West African nation of Liberia, he led a reign of terror from 1999 to 2003. Along with his associates, he tortured a series of victims in the most horrific ways: burning them with cigarettes, scalding water, candle wax, and an iron…severely beating them with firearms…cutting and stabbing them…and shocking them with an electric device.
Roy Belfast, Jr., aka Chuckie Taylor, was brought to justice for his human rights crime in a federal court in Miami, where he was sentenced to 97 years in prison.
How did he end up in an American courtroom? Because U.S. law says that if human rights violators are U.S. nationals, commit offenses against U.S. citizens, or are present in this country, they can be charged here. In Taylor’s case, he was born in America, and he was arrested in 2006 while trying to enter the country illegally.
The FBI has a leading role in investigating human rights violations falling under U.S. law enforcement jurisdiction, and we work closely with our partner agencies—in particular Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. As a matter of fact, the successful outcome of the Chuckie Taylor case was the result of a joint effort with ICE and the Justice Department.
Since 1988, Congress has enacted laws that have expanded our authority over human rights violations—genocide, torture, war crimes, and the recruitment or use of child soldiers.
Our primary mission today? To identify violators in the U.S. and bring them to justice for crimes committed within or outside this nation. We investigate individuals for both specific humans right violations—like in Chuckie Taylor’s case—and more traditional crimes—like the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Iraq and the murder of both the girl and her family, which led to the conviction of an American soldier.
Human Rights Offenses Program. Recently, with additional funding from Congress, we expanded our efforts in the area of human rights enforcement. As part of our new program, we use four key strategies:
- Continue investigating priority human rights cases with our domestic and international law enforcement partners;
- Training our own personnel and those of our foreign counterparts to ensure that human rights investigations are conducted with the “rule of law” principles;
- Collecting domestic and international intelligence on human rights violators and violations through our field offices, our legal attaché offices overseas, our network of sources inside and outside the country, and our relationships with domestic and international law enforcement partners; and
- In response to requests from international and foreign investigative bodies, providing training and other assistance to their personnel.
Domestic prosecution of serious human rights violations committed abroad is a critical way to ensure that our country doesn’t serve as a safe haven to those who commit these crimes. But even when domestic prosecutions aren’t possible, there are other avenues to pursue—such as extraditing a criminal subject to stand trial in another country, offering U.S. assistance to an international tribunal, or deporting a suspect.
A footnote to the Chuckie Taylor case: the apple apparently didn’t fall far from the tree—his father is former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, currently standing trial for human rights crimes in an international court at The Hague.
- DOJ Human Rights/Special Prosecutions Section