Charles Taylor Convicted of War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity

Posted April 26th, 2012 at 8:25 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor has been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by a special tribunal in The Hague.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone ruled Thursday that Taylor aided and abetted severe human rights abuses carried out by rebels during Sierra Leone's civil war.

Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor was guilty on all 11 counts of an indictment that included charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, recruitment of child soldiers, and enslavement.

“The trial chamber unanimously finds you guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of the following crimes, pursuant to article 6/1 of the statute during the indictment period and planning the commission of the following crimes, in the attacks on Kono and Makeni in December 1998, and in the invasion of and retreat from Freetown between December 1998 and February 1999.”

Taylor, wearing a dark blue suit, was calm as he stood and listened to the verdict.

Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, who briefly ruled Nazi Germany after the death of Adolf Hitler.

Lussick said Taylor will be sentenced on May 30. Taylor had pleaded not guilty to the charges and has the right to appeal the verdict.

The United States and international rights groups welcomed the verdict, saying it will serve as an example to others who would commit similar crimes.

The White House issued a statement Thursday, saying the conviction of the former Liberian leader sends a powerful message about accountability. The statement says that with Taylor behind bars, the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone are building the strong institutions and the bright future to which they so deservedly aspire.

Prosecutors had said Taylor masterminded Sierra Leone's civil war in the 1990s, arming and assisting Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels in exchange for “blood diamonds,” mined in eastern Sierra Leone.

The court found Taylor did not have command and control of the rebels but was aware of their activities and provided them with weapons and other supplies.

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 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.