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Charles Taylor Verdict Shows Even Presidents Are Accountable

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor looks down as he waits for the start of a hearing to deliver verdict in the court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands, April 26, 2012.

An international court has convicted Charles Taylor of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law.

An international court has convicted Charles Taylor, a former war lord and president of Liberia, of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law. The trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone delivers a strong message that all perpetrators of atrocities, even those in the highest positions of power, will be held accountable for their actions. The United States has been a strong supporter and leading donor to the court since its inception, and the successful completion of its work remains a top priority of our government.

Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting atrocities carried out by rebels in Sierra Leone, including murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers, sexual slavery and acts of terrorism. He was found guilty of planning the crimes committed during brutal assaults on Freetown in 1998 and 1999, events that are forever seared into the memories of Sierra Leoneans. The verdict was welcomed by the people of Liberia as well, who remember Taylor’s brutal role during the intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone between 1997 and 2003 when hundreds of thousands of people were killed.

Charles Taylor is the first powerful head of state to be charged, tried and convicted by an international criminal tribunal. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for other current and former heads of state, including Cote d’Ivoire’s former president Laurent Gbagbo, on charges of crimes against humanity, and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, on charges of genocide and other atrocity crimes.

The United States welcomes the conviction of Charles Taylor. It marks an important step toward delivering justice and accountability for victims, restoring peace and stability in both the country and region, and completing the Court’s mandate to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed in Sierra Leone.

The court was thorough in its work, hearing testimony from more than 90 witnesses who brought to light the range of crimes committed during the war in Sierra Leone. They were not just victims, however. They were also powerful and relentless advocates for justice in West Africa and around the world.