By Vicki Turakhia
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — After a five-year and 50 million dollar trial, Charles Ghankay Taylor, the 64-year old once president of Liberia, has been tried and found guilty of war crimes in Sierra Leone.
Taylor’s conduct in Sierra Leone has been cited as pivotal towards the harm caused to the citizens of Sierra Leone. His crimes included involvement in the murder, rape, sexual slavery, and recruitment of child soldiers. Charles Taylor was a rebel leader turned president of Liberia until his ultimate exile to Nigeria. During Charles Taylor’s time as president, he received blood diamonds for his participation in the killing of tens of thousands of people which he used to furnish weapons to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
Prosecutor Brenda Hollis, found the actions of Charles Taylor to be “purposely cruel.” Hollis has stated that Taylor was involved in the facilitation of public rapes of women and people being burned alive in their homes. Taylor’s involvement also extends to the amputation and execution of the citizens of Sierra Leone, using decapitated heads at checkpoints.
However, the defense calls Charles Taylor a scapegoat for Sierra Leone’s self-inflicted harm. Charles Taylor provided his own argument for his actions by stating that he was bringing peace to Sierra Leone and he did so with honor, he further claimed that his trial had been unjust because his witnesses had been paid to change or recant their testimony.
Taylor declared that his actions were comparable to President George W. Bush, stating that it is unfair that the United States did not prosecute President Bush for his conduct. Courtenay Griffiths, Charles Taylor’s defense barrister, argued that the International Criminal Court (ICC), is being manipulated behind the scenes, strung along by politics instead of the steadfast law. Mr. Griffiths insists that the trial, while necessary, was handled incorrectly.
Despite, the defenses’ arguments Charles Taylor was found guilty on 11 counts of aiding and abetting rebel forces. The judges of the ICC were unanimous in their decision.
The prosecution has recommended an 80-year sentence, while the defense asks for anything that would be less than a life sentence. The prosecution has found the 80-year prison sentence is justified based on the Charles Taylor’s conduct and involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War. Taylor is to be sentenced on May 30th with a right to appeal the decision. The loss of the appeal may result in Taylor serving a sentence in a British prison as the Netherlands has only agreed to house the trial and not the prison sentence.
For more information, please see:
All Africa – Liberia:Charles Taylor Gets Sentence Tomorrow – 29 May 2012
All Africa – Liberia: Taylor Begs for Merciful Jail Sentence – 17 May 2012
CNN – In His Last Stand, Charles Taylor Defends Himself as a Peacemaker – 16 May 2012
BBC – Sierra Leone Trial: 80 Years Urged for Charles Taylor – 3 May 2012
BBC – Charles Taylor Guilty of Aiding Sierra Leone War Crimes – 26 April 2012