US Welcomes Taylor War Crimes Conviction

Posted April 26th, 2012 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States has welcomed the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, noted that the court in the Netherlands found Taylor criminally responsible for aiding and abetting the commission of those crimes and planning the attacks on Freetown in 1998 and 1999.

“We understand that there were huge and joyous crowds celebrating in Freetown — of people who are very relieved to see Taylor convicted. And today's judgement is a very important step toward delivering justice and accountability not only for victims of this set of atrocities, but also for setting an example for those who would commit them in the future.”

Human rights activists also hailed the conviction of the former Liberian leader, calling it a milestone for the international criminal justice system and the people of Sierra Leone.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Taylor's conviction sends a message that those in power can be brought to justice for grave crimes.

Alan White, the former chief of investigations for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, spoke to VOA about the significance of the verdict.

“Well, this is a historical and monumental day for the international criminal justice community, and most importantly, it's retributive justice for the people of Sierra Leone. This man was found guilty for the atrocities that he committed for over 1.2 million people, for rape, mutilization, and other crimes over his reign of terror. The people of Sierra Leone now get some closure to this episode as this man is brought to justice.”

Many Sierra Leonians watched the Taylor verdict live on television Thursday, and said afterward they were happy he had been brought to justice. But in Liberia, where Taylor ruled until he was deposed nine years ago, the reactions were mixed, with some people calling the verdict unfair.

Taylor was found guilty of assisting rebels who committed horrific atrocities during Sierra Leone's civil war, including the rape and killing of thousands of civilians.

Amnesty's Sierra Leone director, Brima Abdulai Sheriff, noted that many other war crimes suspects have not been investigated, and also called for reparations for war victims.