ith a watershed verdict issued today by judges in The Hague, Liberia’s ex-president Charles Taylor now has a rap sheet that includes convictions for aiding and abetting the following 11 war crimes or crimes against humanity, The Guardian reports.
1. Acts of terrorism
3. Violence to life
5. Sexual slavery
6. Outrages of personal dignity
7. Cruel treatment
8. Other inhumane acts
9. The use of child soldiers
Taylor’s conviction is the first conviction of a former head of state by an international court since the Nuremberg Trials, when Karl Doenitz, was convicted in connection with crimes committed by Germany during World War II. Doenitz was a German naval commander and president of Germany for approximately one week at the end of World War II, according to Human Rights Watch. But as monumental as Taylor’s conviction is, he was found not guilty of direct personal responsibility for the atrocities carried out by the RUF rebel group and others. The head of Amnesty International Sierra Leone, Brima Abdulai Sheriff, told The Guardian his conviction is insufficient. She said:
Thousands of persons suspected of criminal responsibility for incidences of unlawful killings, rape and sexual violence, mutilations and the use of children in Sierra Leone’s armed conflict have never been investigated, much less prosecuted.
Sadly, only a limited number of Sierra Leone’s thousands of victims who bear the terrible scars of the conflict have received reparations, despite the Lomé Peace Accord and the clear recommendations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Taylor’s sentencing hearing will be May 15, and his sentence will be handed down May 30, according to the Guardian. After the verdict was read, he asked for permission to speak. The judges said no.
Taylor became president of Liberia in 1997, after leading a rebel group that toppled then-president Samuel K. Doe. After assuming the Presidency, he began oppressing his own people and helping warlords in neighboring countries oppress theirs. His convictions today stem from his deadly alliance with Sierra Leone warlords, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The RUF killed, systematically mutilated and committed other atrocities against as many as 500,000 people. Taylor helped them in part by giving them arms in exchange for exquisite Sierra Leone diamonds.
Taylor is the ninth person to be convicted in connection with crimes committed against the citizens of Sierra Leone. The eight other — leaders of the RUF, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and the Civil Defence Forces — have already been imprisoned.
Meanwhile, Taylor has not been tried on the crimes committed in Liberia, because the court in which he was tried did not have “the authority to hear cases involving crimes committed in Liberia,” according to Human Rights Watch FAQ about Taylor’s trial. “The Liberian government has made no progress in ensuring the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes committed during Liberia’s armed conflicts,” the Human Rights Watch FAQ says.
Before the verdict was announced, a photojournalist in Monrovia — Liberia’s capital city — captured images of his supporters waving signs defending him.
The Guardian live blogged the verdict, providing a excellent full recap of the day’s events. For more background on Taylor’s trial, check out the Human Rights Watch FAQ and that organization’s timeline of the trial.
The story of Taylor’s rise to power in Liberia is deeply connected with the story of African-American’s quest for freedom. The African-Americans who migrated to Liberia during the 1800s to start a colony defeated the native Africans and set up an oppressive regime that lasted for almost two centuries. Taylor is a descendant of those African-Americans. For more information on the country’s political history, read House on Sugar Beach, the memoir of New York Times reporter Helene Cooper, who also grew up in the African-American descended Liberian elite but fled the country during a rebellion.