INPROL BLOG: Charles Taylor found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during Sierra Leone conflict

April 26, 2012 - 2:45pm

Former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, was convicted this morning of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Sierra Leonean civil war (1991 – 2002). The verdict issued by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), sitting in The Hague, marks an important conviction in international criminal law. Taylor is the first former African head of state to be tried and found guilty of war crimes for his role in fuelling the Sierra Leone conflict through blood diamond and natural resource trading and human rights abuses. The court found Taylor, 64, guilty on 11 charges brought against him connected to war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, use of child soldiers and terrorism. The court, however, found that Taylor’s support fell short of “effective command and control” of the rebels, and thus he was not found guilty of directly ordering the crimes.

While President of neighboring Liberia, Charles Taylor armed and supported Sierra Leone’s notorious rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), whose tactics included amputating limbs, forcible recruitment of child soldiers who were often given drugs and ordered to fight, and extensive sexual violence against women and children. The conflict was compounded by vast funds generated through illegal trade of diamonds and timber, which employed slave trade in mining. UN sanctions on the export of diamonds from Liberia, introduced in 2001, were used to attempt to curb smuggling and conflict.

In January 2002, peace was declared in Sierra Leone and the country has made progressive strides in rebuilding itself in post-conflict years. Taylor’s trial represents an important step in ending impunity, holding a major former head of state accountable for the instability and violent conflict he fanned across his West African sub-region, spreading across the borders of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. Despite these positives, Taylor has not been held to account for the atrocities committed during his own country Liberia’s civil wars (1989-2003). Though a hybrid international-Liberian war crimes tribunal was recommended by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its final report in 2009, no progress has yet been made by the Liberian government.

Taylor will be sentenced on May 30, 2012.

 

For further analysis of the trial see:

The Guardian (UK) News Blog: Charles Taylor war crimes trial - live coverage of the verdict

Foreign Policy Magazine: The real meaning of the Charles Taylor trial

Open Society Justice Initiative: Legacy: Completing the Work of the The Special Court for Sierra Leone