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Liberia's Taylor, chains of guilt

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Liberia's Taylor, chains of guilt


The crimes for which Charles Taylor has been convicted, although committed by rebel forces in Sierra Leone, came back to him.

Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions include wilful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, and forcing someone to serve a hostile power. Nations who are party to the treaties are obligated to bring them to trial. Taylor’s began in 2007.

He had fought his way to become president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, a warlord extending his reach outside the country’s borders; into Sierra Leone.

Here, the Revolutionary United Front rebels spread death, terror and destruction in the 1991-2002 civil war.

Civilians had their hands chopped off. No brutality was out of bounds. It guaranteed that those abducted served obediently.

Victims remain stigmatised in their own communities, traumatised after being physically and morally dehumanised.

Condoning the use of child soldiers was among the crimes imputed to Taylor.

The convictions also extend to financing the fighting. Illegally mined diamonds from Sierra Leone were diverted to the black market, around a UN embargo, to pay for rebel weapons.

There were also allegations of surreal largesse for reasons that may have been no more than flirtatious. For instance, supermodel Naomi Campbell was called to provide testimony in 2010. The prosecution said Taylor had given her and uncut diamonds. She told the court she did not know who had sent them.

The tribunal ruled that the Liberian former warlord and president had, beyond reasonable doubt, aided and abetted the rebels’ carrying out of atrocities in Sierra Leone, in a judgement called ‘historic’ by human rights groups.

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