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Charles Taylor Ruling A Blow Against Impunity


Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appearing in court at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, January 22, 2013.

The ruling marks a milestone for the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

An international court has upheld the war crimes conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, confirming a 50-year prison sentence for his role in aiding, abetting and planning atrocities by rebels waging a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. This is the first contested verdict against a former head of state in an international or hybrid court.


The ruling by the Appeals Chamber for the Special Court for Sierra Leone marks a milestone for the people of that nation and Liberia, as well as for international justice and the rule of law. While the living victims of the 1991-2002 conflict can never be made whole and those lost can never be brought back, holding Taylor accountable for his actions in this way helps cement the foundation on which national reconciliation can proceed. The verdict underscores that no person responsible for atrocities, no matter how high his station, should escape accountability.

Some 50,000 people died in the fighting in Sierra Leone and tens of thousands were mutilated in a campaign of terror aimed at overthrowing the government of then-President Joseph Momoh. [MOM-oh] A series of military governments there followed as fighting among different factions ebbed and flowed for more than a decade. Prosecutors said Taylor supported the rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds mined in the conflict zone. He denied the charges.

The United States has been a strong supporter of the Court and its work, having played a key role in drafting and negotiating the United Nations Security Council Resolution that helped to establish it. The United States refuses to accept a world where those responsible for serious atrocities like those committed in Sierra Leone, regardless of title and office, live in impunity.
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