On 26 April 2012, Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone during its eleven-year civil war. Taylor’s conviction is the result of a five year trial, involving 115 witnesses and 1522 exhibits, before the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Taylor’s conviction is historic. He is the first former head of state to be convicted by an international criminal tribunal since the Nuremburg trials. The only other former leader to appear before such a tribunal since WWII, Slobodan Milosevic, died before his trial finished.
Taylor’s conviction is also significant. Although he never set foot in Sierra Leone during the 1991 – 2002 war, he was found guilty of aiding and abetting, through the provision of arms, ammunition, fighters and other “critical” supplies, crimes committed by rebel groups in that country which included murders, rapes, sexual slavery, looting, abductions, forced labour, conscription of child soldiers, acts of terror, and, the signature atrocity, amputations. He was also found guilty of planning the bloodiest chapter in Sierra Leone’s war – the 6 January 1999 Freetown invasion – and its related attacks on Kono and Makeni during which the charged crimes were committed.
Taylor will be sentenced on 30 May 2012. The Prosecution has asked that he serve no less than 80 years in prison.
A summary of the Judgement can be found at:
Hastie Stable member, Leigh Lawrie, has been involved in the Taylor Prosecution team since 2006 and is currently advising on post-Judgement issues. Leigh is also defending two Darfur rebels charged with war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In addition to international criminal work, Leigh acts in domestic criminal matters for the Crown and the defence.