THE HAGUE, (Reuters) – A United Nations-backed court convicted former Liberian president Charles Taylor of war crimes today, the first time an African head of state has been found guilty by an international tribunal.
Taylor, 64, was charged with 11 counts of murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery during intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, during which more than 50,000 people were killed.
The took more than two hours to read out the charges, evidence and its final ruling.
“The accused is criminally responsible … for aiding and abetting in the crimes in counts one to eleven,” Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said as he read out the court’s decision, although he said Taylor was not guilty of senior criminal responsibility.
Taylor, wearing a dark blue suit and maroon tie, looked calm and subdued as he stood up before the court to hear the verdict.
The first African leader to stand trial for war crimes, Taylor was accused of directing Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in a campaign of terror to plunder Sierra Leone’s diamond mines for profit and weapons trading.
Taylor denied the charges, insisting he tried to bring peace to the region and arguing his trial was a politically motivated conspiracy by Western nations.