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War Crimes Conviction of Charles Taylor Welcomed by Freedom House
Freedom House welcomes the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor on charges of atrocities committed in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s and 2000s, including mass murder, rape, and conscription of child soldiers. The verdict, handed down by the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, marks the first conviction of a head of state by an international court of its kind since the Nuremberg Trials following World War II, and sends a renewed message that national leaders cannot engage in war crimes with impunity.
Taylor was found to have had a “sustained and significant” role supporting numerous atrocities committed during Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war, including providing arms, ammunition, communications equipment, and other means of support to rebel forces in the country. He was convicted on each of 11 charges after a 5-year trial and will face sentencing in May, although he is expected to appeal. The conviction comes only a month after the International Criminal Court completed its first conviction in its 10 year history, having found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga guilty of war crimes. Together, these convictions represent the growing capacity of intergovernmental organizations to bring some of the world’s worst human rights offenders to justice.
Both Sierra Leone and Liberia have seen modest improvements in civil liberties and political freedoms over the decade following the end of civil war in 2002 and Taylor’s resignation in 2003, and are rated Partly Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2012 report.