Former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor was today found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He is the first Head of State to be convicted of war crimes since the Nuremberg trials (Admiral Donitz, who was convicted at Nuremberg, technically became Head of State of Germany following the death of Adolf Hitler. The crimes for which he was convicted were NOT, however, committed during his brief service as Head of State, but, rather, before).
The Special Court, a hybrid international criminal court established jointly by the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone, and charged with bringing to justice those bearing the "greatest responsibility" for atrocities committed in the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, had indicted Taylor in 2003 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in sponsoring the atrocities committed by the Revolutionary United Front during the war. Many of those crimes were committed in furtherance of a plan to secure control of the diamond mining areas in eastern Sierra Leone. The diamonds were then used to finance the purchase of munitions to further the war.
Taylor will have a sentancing hearing on May 16, with sentancing scheduled to be handed down on May 30. He does have the right to appeal his conviction to the Special Court's Appeals Chamber. Following his appeals, his sentence will be served in Great Britain, pursuant to an agreement made prior to Taylor's transfer to The Hague for trial.
[Full disclosure: I served as a member of the Prosecution team at the Special Court for three years and am fully convinced of Taylor's guilt beyond any doubt. I make no pretense of objectivity in this regard.]
As found in the 11 count indictment(PDF), Taylor was charged with
Count 1 : Acts of Terrorism Guilty
Count 2: Murder Guilty
Count 3: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular, murder Guilty
Count 4: Rape Guilty
Count 5: Sexual Slavery Guilty
Count 6: Outrages upon personal dignity Guilty
Count 7: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular, cruel treatment Guilty
Count 8: Other inhumane acts Guilty
Count 9: Conscripting or enlisting children under 15 into the armed forces Guilty
Count 10: Enslavement Guilty
Count 11: Pillage Guilty
The trial chamber found that these crimes were proved to have been committed by the forces allied with Taylor and that Taylor has personal responsibility for these crimes based on his having been the head of a Joint Enterprise with those who committed these crimes, the crimes having been committed in furtherance of the Joint Criminal Enterprise.
For the tens of thousands of victims of the civil war in Sierra Leone, some amount of justice has finally come.