Taylor aided in war crimes
Thu, April 26, 2012 - 11:38 AM
(CNN) -- In a landmark ruling, an international tribunal found former Liberian President Charles Taylor guilty today of aiding and abetting war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone's notoriously brutal civil war.
It was the first war crimes conviction of a former head of state by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War II.
Prosecutors, however, failed to prove that Taylor had direct command over the rebels who committed the atrocities, said Justice Richard Lussick of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
A three-judge panel issued a unanimous decision that Taylor was guilty on all 11 counts of the indictment against him. The judges found him guilty of aiding and abetting rebel forces in a campaign of terror that involved murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting children under the age of 15 and mining diamonds to pay for guns.
Prosecutor Brenda Hollis said the verdict "made clear the central role Charles Taylor played in the horrific crimes against the people of Sierra Leone.
"This judgment affirms that with leadership comes not just power and authority, but also responsibility and accountability," she said. "No person, no matter how powerful, is above the law."
Taylor maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty. A sentencing hearing is set for May 16.
There is no death penalty in international criminal law and Taylor would serve out any sentence in a British prison.
Both prosecutors and defense lawyers said they would examine grounds for an appeal.
Throughout Lussick's read of a long list of chilling crimes, the former warlord remained stoic. Dressed in a charcoal gray suit , a white shirt and a burgundy tie, he stood quietly as the judge delivered the guilty verdict.
The mood was decidedly different in Freetown, the Sierra Leone capital, where, as one resident described it, every television set was on.
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