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United States v. Charles Emmanuel

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
2007 WL 2002452 (2007)


In December 1984, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention). After reviews by the Senate, President Clinton deposited the treaty for ratification in 1994, subject to certain understandings and restrictions. The Convention was not intended to be self-executing, and therefore, to comply with its obligations, the United States enacted the Torture Convention Implementation Act (Torture Act), 18 U.S.C. § 2340A. The Torture Act criminalized acts of torture committed outside the United States if the offender was a U.S. national or, regardless of nationality, was present in the United States. The Torture Act defined torture as “an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control.” This definition was slightly different from that in the Convention, which adds that the suffering is inflicted for purposes of intimidation or obtaining a confession. In March 2006, Charles Emmanuel (defendant), the son of Liberian President Charles Taylor, was arrested when he attempted to enter the United States with a passport obtained through false statements. Emmanuel pled guilty and was imprisoned. The following year, a grand jury returned an indictment against Emmanuel, charging him with participating in acts of torture in Liberia between 1999 and 2003, based on his presence in the United States. By virtue of his relationship with his father, Emmanuel had authority over various units of Liberian police forces. During 2002, a number of groups opposed Emmanuel’s father, and Emmanuel conspired to commit acts of torture on an unnamed individual in Liberia to gain information about members of those opposition groups. The acts included forcing the victim to hold scalding water in his hands and shocking the victim. Emmanuel moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that 18 U.S.C. § 2340A is unconstitutional, because (1) Congress lacked the power to implement it, and (2) it is unconstitutionally vague.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Altonaga, J.)

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