Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years
Today, hundreds gathered in Freetown, Sierra Leone to watch the sentencing of Charles Taylor, the former head of state of Liberia responsible for widespread terror amongst civilians by aiding the rebels in Sierra Leone. Taylor was found guilty of all 11 charges of War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, and International Humanitarian Laws on April 26th in The Hague, Netherlands. As his 50 year prison sentence was administered concluding the almost four-year-long trial, many victims of the terror in Sierra Leone were relieved to know Taylor will be locked up. The trial of Charles Taylor is not simply a victory for the international court systems and those victimized by the rebels aided by Taylor, it is a message to the rest of the world that the international justice system is prepared to hold all parties responsible for breaches of human rights.
Taylor will serve his sentence in a British prison for aiding and abetting vast crimes against humanity by rebel forces in Sierra Leone and his personal profiting from the "blood diamonds". The judgment and sentencing through The Special Court for Sierra Leone is a monumental step in the international court system as a former head of state has not been convicted for war crimes since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945.
Further development of these types of charges to national leaders may be seen in the future with investigations beginning in Darfur, northern Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Birma Sheriff of Amnesty International states that the trial of Charles Taylor "...sends a signal that authorities are finally moving to end impunity, establish the rule of law, promote and encourage respect for human rights and restore and maintain international peace and security."
Led by laws of the court system in Sierra Leone with enhancement and influence by the International Court System, The Special Court propels the concepts of international justice into a more integrated court system. The support of the international community contributed to the success of the tribunal proceedings as the location of the court was moved to The Netherlands to avoid disrupting the fragile peace in Sierra Leone. With previous issues in international criminal courts, such as the issues with jurisdiction and continuity in the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Special Court of Sierra Leone created a method that can be reproduced and expanded upon in future war crimes courts.
Today, as the people of Sierra Leone watched Taylor brought to justice, the proof of his terror is still evident as Sierra Leoneans with physical disabilities and families with extreme losses continue to struggle in a post conflict country. After the guilty verdict last month, the US Department of State released a statement expressing their agreement: "Today's judgment was an important step toward delivering justice and accountability for victims and restoring peace and stability in the country and the region... The Taylor prosecution at the Special Court delivers a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities, including those in the highest positions of power, that they will be held accountable."
We can now hope that this new step in the international court system will lead to a future with more international cooperation in bringing those perpetrators of war crimes to the authority of the international justice system and a more peaceful future for Sierra Leone.
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