Justice is served as Charles Taylor is convicted on all 11 charges of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone
26th April 2012 · 0 Comments
In a landmark ruling, the International Court in Hague today convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone in return for “blood diamonds.”
Taylor will go down in history as the first head of state convicted by an international court since the post-World War II.
“Today is for the people of Sierra Leone who suffered horribly at the hands of Charles Taylor and his proxy forces,” said prosecutor Brenda Hollis. “This judgment brings some measure of justice to the many thousands of victims who paid a terrible price for Mr. Taylor’s crimes.”
Prosecutors and defense lawyers both said they would study the lengthy judgment to see if there were grounds for appeal.
Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said the 64-year-old warlord-turned-president provided arms, ammunition, communications equipment and planning to the RUF responsible for countless atrocities in the 1991-2002 Sierra Leone civil war and was repaid by the guerrillas in so-called “blood diamonds” mined by slave laborers. Lussick called the support “sustained and significant.”
“Mr. Taylor, the trial chamber unanimously finds you guilty” of 11 charges, including terror, murder, rape and conscripting child soldiers, Lussick told Taylor.
Taylor stood and showed no emotion as Lussick delivered the guilty verdicts at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Lussick scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 16, and said sentence would be announced two weeks later. Taylor will serve his sentence in Britain.
The court does not have maximum sentences or the death penalty. In the past, convicted Sierra Leone rebel leaders have received sentences of up to 52 years.
“Taylor’s conviction sends a powerful message that even those in the highest level positions can be held to account for grave crimes,” said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch. “Not since Nuremberg has an international or hybrid war crimes court issued a judgment against a current or former head of state. This is a victory for Sierra Leonean victims, and all those seeking justice when the worst abuses are committed.”
Thousands of survivors of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war celebrated after learning of the conviction.
Taylor had pleaded not guilty to all counts, claiming in seven months of testimony in his own defense that he was a statesman and peacemaker in West Africa.
While judges convicted him of aiding and abetting atrocities by rebels, they cleared him of direct command responsibility, saying he had no direct control over the rebels he supported.
His lawyer pounced on that finding, saying the judges “rejected large areas of the prosecution theory.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the judgment, “an important step toward delivering justice and accountability for victims, restoring peace and stability in the country and the region.”