MIAMI (AP) – Five Africans who suffered horrific torture on the orders of the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor will suffer mental problems for the rest of their lives, a psychologist testified Friday in their lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages.
The five torture victims – who were set on fire, were held in chest-high pits of filthy water and repeatedly sexually assaulted – are suing Taylor’s son, Charles McArthur Emmanuel, who is also known as Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr. He is serving a 97-year prison sentence for violating U.S. anti-torture laws while he commanded an elite paramilitary unit in his father’s war-torn government.
Psychologist Jethro Toomer, who interviewed each of the five victims, said they suffer from long-term post-traumatic stress disorder in addition to numerous scars and physical ailments caused by the torture.
“Once individuals experience trauma of any kind, the individual is never the same. It will last forever, until they die,” Toomer testified. “That trauma is unrelenting.”
The scope of the physical and mental damage to the five Liberians will figure prominently in the amount of damages they might be awarded by U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan, who previously ruled in favor of the victims’ lawsuit. It was not immediately clear when Jordan would decide on damages and the five victims have not requested specific amounts.
Emmanuel, a 32-year-old U.S. citizen born in Boston while Taylor was a college student there, acted as his own lawyer and repeatedly questioned Toomer about how he could be sure the victims were telling the truth.
“It’s an honor to be before an educated man such as yourself,” Emmanuel said at one point. “I’m not the brightest bulb in the bunch.”
Emmanuel led President Taylor’s Antiterrorist Unit or ATU, which was used to silence opposition and train soldiers, including children, for combat in Liberia’s civil war and conflicts in neighboring countries, according to trial testimony. Emmanuel’s 2008 conviction was the first and only under a 1994 U.S. law allowing prosecution in this country for torture and atrocities committed overseas.
The elder Taylor is on trial before a United Nations tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. He is accused of overseeing the murder and rape of thousands of people during neighboring Sierra Leone’s 12-year civil war. Taylor denies the charges and blames the U.S. for driving him from power.
Emmanuel was tried in Miami because he flew here after submitting a false application for his passport.