This Thursday, former President of Liberia Charles Taylor was convicted by an international war crimes court at the Hague. This is the first such conviction since World War II. Taylor was found guilty of 11 counts for arming and supplying rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.
The civil war in Sierra Leone, which ended in 2002, is one of the most gruesome in recent history. The rebels, which Taylor armed in exchange for so-called “blood diamonds,” were fond of cutting limbs from people and taking children hostage to use as soldiers. They also liked to carve their initials in their victims. Taylor is believed to have known about the rebels tactics and supplied them anyway.
In all, 91 witnesses testified against Taylor, including supermodel Naomi Campbell, who once attended dinner with Taylor and was given a rough diamond as a gift. For his part, Taylor claimed he was a “victim of neocolonialism.”
Reaction to the verdict varied. Victims felt justice had been done:
“I am happy that the truth has come out … that Charles Taylor is fully and solely responsible for the crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone,” said Jusu Jarka, who had both his arms hacked off by rebels in 1999 and who now runs a support group for fellow amputees.
But many in Taylor’s home country of Liberia, where Taylor is still a popular figure, are reportedly angry. One local reporter told NPR “there are also those people who feel that justice hasn’t been done in Liberia.”
Members of the international community see this as a clear victory for the International Criminal Court. The UN Secretary General said the verdict “sends a strong signal to all leaders that they are and will be held accountable for their actions.”