In the first case brought under the 1994 anti-torture statute—making it a crime for United States citizens to commit torture overseas—Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr., was convicted of torturing suspected opponents of his father’s government. During the trial, defense counsel argued that he was not guilty under a 2002 U.S. Department of Justice memo’s narrow interpreted of the definition of torture that required that the infliction of severe pain be the defendant’s “precise objective.” The defense counsel’s arguments were a sharp reminder of how a U.S. policy of official cruelty has jeopardized our country’s ability to hold torturers accountable for their horrendous crimes.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and FBI agents who traveled around the world finding victims and witnesses. Miami Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said the case will serve as model for future prosecutions involving foreign torture allegations: “It is truly historic. It’s the first case of its kind, but it won’t be the last of its kind.”
The verdict is a milestone for ensuring justice for acts of torture by U.S. citizens abroad.