A day after former Liberian president Charles Taylor was found guilty of war crimes by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, The Standard ran the story on its front-page under the caption “ICC Verdict.”
While the connection looks obvious, the story was way off the mark. Taylor was not tried and convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Yet, in an attempt to add value to the story, writer Peter Opiyo further went on to claim that Taylor’s conviction was another victory for outgoing ICC chief prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo. Fact is Ocampo did not feature in the Taylor case.
In the circumstances, the newspaper should have realized the mistake and corrected it promptly the next day but it did not.
To set the record straight, contrary to the front-page story of 27 April 2012 about his conviction, ET notes that Charles Taylor, was Liberia’s 22nd President and served from August 2, 1997 until his resignation on August 11, 2003.
He studied in the United States before returning to Liberia to work in the government of Samuel Doe. But after being sacked for embezzlement, he eventually went to Libya where he trained as a guerilla and returned to Liberia in 1989 as the head of a Libyan-backed resistance group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, to overthrow the Doe regime and thereby initiating the First Liberian Civil War.
Following Doe's execution, Taylor gained control of a large portion of the country and became one of the most prominent warlords in Africa, and following a peace deal that ended the war, Taylor coerced the population into electing him president in the 1997 general election.
During his term of office, Taylor was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of his involvement in the Sierra Leone civil war. Domestically, opposition to his regime grew, culminating in the outbreak of the second Liberian civil war in 1999. By 2003, he had lost control of much of the countryside and was formally indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. That year, he resigned as a result of growing international pressure and went into exile in Nigeria.
In 2006, the newly elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf formally requested for Taylor’s extradition, after which he was detained by UN authorities in Sierra Leone and then at the Penitentiary Institution Haaglanden in The Hague to await trial. He was found guilty in April 2012 of all eleven charges levied by the Special Court, including terror, murder and rape.
April 26, 2012, therefore marked the conclusion of a nearly six-year trial when a three-judge panel at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) sitting in The Hague, unanimously found the former Liberian president guilty of aiding and abetting 11 crimes, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and forced labor. He was further convicted of planning, with Sierra Leonean rebels, attacks in three different areas of the country, including the capital Freetown and diamond-rich district of Kono.
Hence, after 420 days of trial, 115 witness, over 50,000 pages of testimony, and 1,520 exhibits presented, the judges ruled that Taylor knowingly assisted the commission of these crimes by providing a continuous flow of arms and ammunition to the RUF in exchange for diamonds.
During the defense press conference, Taylor’s lead counsel Courtenay Griffiths said that the verdict was inevitable and that it sets an “unwelcome precedent.” He becomes the first former or current head of state to be convicted by an international criminal tribunal since the Nuremburg trials in 1946. He will be sentenced later on this month.