Thursday, April 26, 2012: The United Nations backed “Special Court for Sierra Leone” has convicted the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes. Presiding Judge Richard Lussick, said, “Mr. Taylor was guilty of involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, slavery and the use of child soldiers.” Mr. Taylor was found innocent of “direct command responsibility” for the crimes listed in the indictment.
Mr. Taylor, who is still maintaining his innocence on all the charges, is the first African President to be convicted by an international tribunal. The court, which is based in The Hague, does not impose the death sentence. Taylor’s term of imprisonment will be determined in the coming weeks and Mr. Taylor will serve his sentence in a British prison, where he will be protected from any possible retribution for his crimes.
While there is sure to be a a feeling of relief over Taylor’s conviction, many of his victims paid a terrible price. It will be a long time before the belaguered citizens of the small African nation are able to forget the drugged child soldiers roaming the country side, killing at will, financed by conflict diamonds, heroin traffic and stolen foreign aid. The war evoked a horrifying new vocabulary where a “smile’ meant cutting off the victim’s lips, “long sleeves” meant cutting off the victim’s hands and “short sleeves” referred to cutting off the arms at the elbows.
Mr. Taylors reign of terror lasted from 1989 until his overthrow in 2003. He was arrested on March 29, 2003 at the Roberts International Airport in Harbel, Liberia and turned over to United Nations Troops. At the time of his arrest, his vehicle was found to contain a large quantity of cash, heroin and conflict diamonds. Irish U.N. soldiers took Taylor under guard to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he was turned over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
While there may never be an accurate count of the deaths at the hands of Mr.Taylor and his army, it is known that half of the citizens of Sierra Leone fled during his years in power. Today there are thousands of his multilated victims struggling to survive and thousands more child soldiers still in need of rehabilitation.
Mr.Taylor has the right to appeal his conviction and he has been remanded on bail until May 16, 2012.