Liberia: Charles Taylor found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes

Former Liberian president found guilty after near five year trial at The Hague.

The International Criminal Court, The Hague

Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, has been found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war. Taylor stood accused of supporting rebels who killed tens of thousands in the war, which took place for over a decade, finally ending in 2002.

Taylor was convicted on 11 counts including terror, murder and rape, but was cleared of ordering the crimes.

Taylor’s conviction is a landmark moment for the international justice system as he is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of prominent Nazis in the aftermath of the second World War. International human rights campaigners believe this is a watershed moment that could set a legal precedent, something that will be on the mind of Taylor’s former Hague prison neighbour, Laurent Gbagbo. The former leader of Ivory Coast  is currently awaiting the outcome of his own trial on charges of crimes against humanity. Jean-Pierre Bemba, former vice-president of DR Congo, is also on trial at the ICC at the moment.

Amnesty International released a statement saying the conviction “brings some measure of justice to the people of Sierra Leone.”

Taylor had pleaded not guilty, but was ultimately found to have been “criminally responsible” by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The former president’s crimes occurred between 1996 and 2002, when he supported the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in committing crimes involving murder, rape, sexual slavery, enforced amputations, and terrorising the general civilian populace in Sierra Leone.

Of Taylor’s conviction, Human Rights Watch said:

“For decades, so-called “big men – people who either led armed groups or wielded significant political power – have been allowed to carry out abuses, seemingly with no fear of being investigated or held accountable by a credible judicial body. In this trial, for the first time, such a ‘big man’ was taken into custody and forced to answer for his alleged crimes.”

Charles Taylor has 14 days in which to appeal his verdict. If he loses his appeal he is expected to serve his sentence in the UK.

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