While many Liberians, as well as friends and family members of ex-President Charles Taylor long anticipated that the 26 April 2012 verdict in his case would be in his favor, based on some divine intervention, it was the opposite, instead, which prevailed.
On all 11 counts, the international judges of the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in The Hague, found the 64-year-old former President guilty of “aiding and abetting” war crimes and crimes against humanity in neighboring Sierra Leone.
Former President Taylor’s 11-count conviction included murder, terror, rape, as well as recruitment of child soldiers, among others, by the Revolutionary United Front or RUF which he reportedly backed in its war in Sierra Leone from 1991-2002.
In less than seven working days, beginning from the announcement of his April 26 guilty verdict, Taylor is expected to be sentenced on May 30 and imprison in Britain in consonance with a Special Act passed by the British Parliament in 2007, demonstrating what the government referred to as its commitment to” international justice.”
The description by international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, of the April 26 judgment (the first of its kind for a former head of state since the Nuremburg military tribunal of Nazis after World War II, according to reports) as “historic, incredibly significant decision, as well as a landmark moment,” is something that many in Liberia and elsewhere may want to agree with.
And truly enough, justice has finally prevailed in the ‘interest’ of hundreds of Sierra Leoneans maimed and victimized one way or the other by the brutal actions of the RUF, even though they continue to live under abandoned, miserable and unbearable conditions. That the verdict would now bring relief to their plight is another issue to be discussed.
However, the judgment in the Taylor Trial is, no doubt, a fine model for international justice, especially in Africa and the Middle East where war crimes and crimes against humanity occur unabated based on the economic interests of the “big powers” of the world. But is international justice actually prevailing in the political and security situations in Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Syria, etc., etc.?
Back in our own country, Liberia, the issue of ensuring international justice as it relates to our civil war has completely been swept under the rug, despite the millions of dollars spent by the international community to promote peace and reconciliation through the TRC process.
It is, indeed, a known fact that the Liberian Civil War between 1989 and 2003 was characterized by war crimes and crimes against humanity. Devoid of all of the un-necessary politics and PR’s, Liberia can now follow the example of neighboring Sierra Leone.
It’s high time Liberians began the advocacy for international justice (the setting up of a special war crimes court) too, based on the recommendations of the TRC so that those who bear greater responsibilities for the heinous atrocities and destructions our people and our nation experienced – including the sponsors, architects and others who helped establish the National Patriotic Front of Liberia or NPFL and other rebel forces – can be brought to justice. Let this be done.
Such process must also include facilitators, including leaders and other officials of such countries as Libya, Bourkina Faso, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast, leaders and officials who, one way or the other, backed the NPFL and other factions in pillaging our resources and destroying precious and innocent lives.
Liberians must now wake up and follow the example of Sierra Leoneans who now celebrate justice as an Independence Day gift today, April 27, 2012.
Let there be no wheeling and dealing about this. Let war criminals or suspected war criminals of the wars fought in Liberia face justice, too; let them be prosecuted as Taylor has been.