The Special Court for Sierra Leone found former Liberia President Charles Taylor guilty of war crimes and for backing rebels who killed thousands of residents during Sierra Leone’s civil war. He was cleared of ordering the crimes, but was found guilty of crimes against humanity, murder, rape, slavery and the use of child soldiers. Sentencing will take place in coming weeks and most likely any jail term would be served in the U.K. Taylor is the first president from Africa who has ever been convicted by an international tribunal.
“The chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is criminally responsible… for aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes 1 to 11 in the indictment,” presiding judge Richard Lussick told the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Taylor had substantial influence over the Sierra Leone’s RUF rebels, but the power was short of command and control, the judge said. Lussick added that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Taylor was part of a joint criminal enterprise.
The United Nations’ human rights chief, Navi Pillay, welcomed the court’s ruling. “It is important to recognize that Taylor may appeal the verdict, and that his guilt is not fully established until the end of the judicial process.”
Nonetheless, a former president, who once ”wielded immense influence in a neighboring country” where tens of thousands of people were killed, mutilated, raped, robbed and repeatedly displaced for years on end, has been tried in a fair and thorough international procedure, Pillay added.
She noted too that others leaders – namely Laurent Gbagbo and Radovan Karadžiæ – have been charged with international crimes and are either already on trial or will be soon. As well, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has been indicted, while Slobodan Miloševiæ and Muammar Gaddafi were also at various stages of international proceedings at the time of their deaths.