Perhaps the most historic verdict Charles Taylor, former Liberia President, today was convicted of adding and abetting war crimes. It has taken just over 5 years for the judges to write their adjudications but for the thousands of victims in Sierra Leone they have finally seen justice done.
Despite successfully indicting Taylor for adding and abetting the prosecution failed on two parts: that Taylor exerted control of rebel forces in Sierra Leone therefore he should be liable for their criminal activities; or that he was part of a joint criminal enterprise. For many, including the thousands of victims findings on those points would have been significant. There are two momentous things that happened today: firstly, Charles Taylor is the first African head of state to be convicted for war crimes (a triumph for Africa) secondly it marks an end to impunity that no head of state is exempt from prosecution (This we believe will lead to a new judicial precedent in the International court).
Conversely today has highlighted concerns about the measures and fairness of the proceedings of the courts. $250 million is the reported amount used to process the conviction nonetheless it is noted that the sentencing practices proved fickle throughout the developments of the trail. The phrase ‘International Justice’ deployed in most news reports today suggests that Africa has been used as mere testing ground to test court proceedings that would not have worked in other parts of the world. All seven war crime cases investigated by The Hague have been from Africa. What about Syria or Iraq?
The conviction of Charles Taylor is scheduled to go ahead end of May and no doubt will be watched with great scrutiny.