The wheel of justice may grind slowly, but grinds surely. This aphorism best sums up the fate that befell former Sierra Leonean warlord, Charles Taylor, as the International Court of Justice at The Hague today found him guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.
Taylor, the country’s former President, who has been on trial at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for almost five years, was accused of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.
Although the court absolved Taylor of ordering their crimes, the court reasoned that Taylor had sold diamonds and bought weapons on behalf of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels – and knew they were committing crimes.
Delivering the court’s verdict, Judge Richard Lussick said: “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.”
He further said: “The accused had substantial influence over the RUF, but this fell short of effective command and control,” adding that the military support provided by the accused to the RUF had a significant impact on the commission of crimes.
Judge Lussick also said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was individually responsible for some of the crimes committed in Sierra Leone or part of a joint criminal enterprise.
A sentence hearing will be held on 16 May, while the sentence to be pronounced on 30 May, 2012.
Charles Taylor is the first former head of state convicted by an international court since the Nuremburg military tribunal of Nazis after World War II. He is expected to serve his sentence in a British prison as the Dutch government only agreed to host the trial if the accused would serve any ensuing jail term in another country.
Human rights groups have hailed the judgment describing as “historic.”
Amnesty International said the verdict sent an important message to all high-ranking state officials. “While today’s conviction brings some measure of justice to the people of Sierra Leone, Taylor and the others sentenced by the Special Court are just the tip of the iceberg,” the group’s Brima Abdulai Sheriff said in a statement.
Written by Staff Writer