Justice was served this Thursday, as former Liberian President Charles Taylor, 64, was convicted by an international war crimes court. Taylor was found guilty on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for sending guns and bullets to Sierra Leone rebels in return for so-called blood diamonds mined by slave laborers and smuggled across the border.
According to the Associated Press, the verdicts were hailed by prosecutors as a landmark conviction as victims and human rights activists said it’s the first step to ending impunity for leaders responsible for atrocities.
As Reported by the AP:
Judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone said Taylor's aid played a crucial role in allowing the rebels to continue a bloody rampage during that West African nation's 11-year civil war that ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead. The rebels gained international notoriety for hacking off the limbs of their enemies and carving their groups' initials into opponents and even children they kidnapped and turned into killers.
Taylor attempted to avoid trial by claiming head of state immunity in 2003, but the court rejected his claim and went ahead with his trial after his 2006 arrest.
There was emotion enough at his trial as 91 prosecution witnesses outlined the horrors of Sierra Leone's war, many of them describing murders, mutilations, tortures and acts of cannibalism by rebels and the children they turned into merciless killers.
Taylor spent seven months of the trial defending his actions, portraying himself as a liberator of the Liberian people, a regional statesman and peacemaker.
Edward Songo Conteh, of Sierra Leone's Amputee and War Wounded Association, was in court to watch the verdicts. His only regret was that Taylor was not immediately sentenced. That will happen next month after a separate hearing.
The ICC has no death penalty and no maximum sentence, but judges have given the eight other rebels they convicted sentences as high as 52 years.