Ex-Liberia president convicted of heinous war crimes
Murder, rape, sexual slavery, war that left 50,000 dead blamed on Charles Taylor
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been found guilty of aiding
and abetting war crimes along with crimes against humanity by the
International Criminal Court at Hague. Taylor was found guilty of
supporting brutal rebels responsible for countless atrocities in the
1991-2002 Sierra Leone civil war that left 50,000 dead.
The prosecution alleged the rebels undermined a ceasefire agreement in 1999, prolonging the war for another three years. Former Liberia president Samuel Taylor financed the rebels with the proceeds of "blood diamonds" mined illegally in Sierra Leone.
Taylor is the first head of state convicted by an international court since the post-World War II Nuremberg military tribunal, which found him guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity by supporting notoriously brutal rebels in return for "blood diamonds."
Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said that Taylor provided arms, ammunition, communications equipment and planning to rebels responsible for countless atrocities during the Sierra Leone civil war. Lussick called the support "sustained and significant."
Betraying no emotion, Taylor stood stoically as Lussick delivered the guilty verdicts at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
While judges convicted him of aiding and abetting atrocities by rebels, Taylor was cleared of direct command responsibility, saying he had no direct control over the rebels he supported.
Lussick scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 16 and said sentence would be passed two weeks afterwards.
Thousands celebrated in Sierra Leone after learning that Taylor had been convicted, according to the Associated Press. Countless survivors of the civil war bear emotional and physical scars from the war as many rebels hacked off the limbs of many of their victims.
Taylor, who was president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, was accused of backing and giving orders to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in the 11-year civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
The prosecution alleged the rebels undermined a ceasefire agreement in 1999, prolonging the war for another three years. Taylor financed the rebels with the proceeds of "blood diamonds" mined illegally in Sierra Leone.
"The Taylor verdict is a watershed moment," Richard Dekker, head of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch said. "As president, Taylor is believed to have been responsible for so much murder and mayhem which unfolded in Sierra Leone. His was a shadow that loomed across the region, in the Ivory Coast, in Sierra Leone and Liberia."
Courts had earlier convicted RUF fighters of crimes against humanity, including rape, torture and terrorism.
Civilians were mutilated during the conflict, their arms being cut off above the hand (known by fighters as "long sleeves") or above the elbow ("short sleeves"). In addition, trial witnesses described seeing children and pregnant women being shot, disemboweled or mutilated in a process aimed at creating terror in the civilian population.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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