Special Court to Announce Verdict in Charles Taylor Trial

Posted April 25th, 2012 at 6:35 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Judges at a United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal are set to hand down their verdict Thursday in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who is accused of masterminding some of the worst human rights abuses in recent African history.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague charged Mr. Taylor with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 11-year civil war, in neighboring Sierra Leone, which ended in 2003. An estimated half-million people were killed in the violence.

Mr. Taylor is specifically charged with being responsible for acts of murder, rape, terrorism, recruitment of child soldiers, and enslavement, allegedly masterminded from Liberia while he served as the country's president. He is also accused of arming and assisting Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels in exchange for “blood diamonds,” mined in eastern Sierra Leone.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to all charges. If he is found guilty, his defense team is expected to appeal within two weeks. If he is acquitted, the prosecution is likely to do the same.

Mr. Taylor was arrested and handed over to the court in 2006, three years after his indictment and subsequent resignation as president. The trial, which opened in 2007, was transferred from Freetown to The Hague amid regional security concerns.

During the trial, the court heard testimony from 94 prosecution witnesses and 21 defense witnesses, including Mr. Taylor.

The tribunal was established to try the most serious cases of war crimes rising from the Sierra Leone conflict. The Taylor case is expected to be the court's last major trial.