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Entries in Sierra Leone (3)

Wednesday
May302012

Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years for Role in Sierra Leone Crimes

JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images(LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands) -- Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years behind bars on Wednesday for his role in the atrocities committed in neighboring Sierra Leone during the country's decade-long civil war.

Last month, the 64-year-old warlord was found guilty by the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone on all 11 charges for "aiding and abetting" militant groups as they carried out crimes against the people of the African nation in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Those crimes included enlisting child soldiers, mass murder, the chopping off of limbs and sexual slavery.

In all, more than 50,000 died during the war.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr262012

Charles Taylor Convicted for Role in Sierra Leone Atrocities

JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After a five year trial that included grisly testimony from victims who witnessed mutilation, former colleagues and even fashion supermodel Naomi Campbell, African warlord Charles Taylor was convicted on Thursday for his role in the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone, including mass murder, the chopping off of limbs, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.

Taylor was found guilty by the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone on all 11 charges for "aiding and abetting" crimes against the people of the African nation committed by militant groups in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Peter Andersen, a spokesperson for the Special Court of Sierra Leone where Taylor was tried, told ABC News the conviction was not a full victory for the prosecution, who hoped Taylor would be found guilty of being part of a "joint criminal enterprise" and having a direct hand in the atrocities as "superior leader" of the groups who committed them.  Still, Andersen said Thursday's ruling -- the first against an African head of state -- was important to the people of Sierra Leone.

"It's why we're here, trying to redress some of the crimes that were committed in Sierra Leone a decade ago," Andersen said.  "I don't know if you can talk about closure, especially with people who have had their limbs hacked off, but at least you can talk about some steps towards reconciliation and at least attempt to put the past behind them and look towards the future."

The original indictment filed against Taylor detailed specific crimes conducted by Taylor's subordinates including "conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups" and multiple instances of mass rape and sexual abuse.  Taylor's defense had argued that though the atrocities certainly did take place, there was only circumstantial evidence linking Taylor directly to the acts.

While already a landmark case for international court, Taylor's trial captured international headlines after two high-profile celebrities became involved.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was subpoenaed by the court following an ABC News report about allegations that Taylor had given her uncut "blood diamonds" on a trip to South Africa.

When asked about the diamonds in April 2010, Campbell denied she received any diamonds and then punched the camera in a producer's hand when pressed for details.  But when she took the stand for the criminal court, Campbell admitted she had received a gift of "small dirty-looking stones."

Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, who ate breakfast with Campbell the morning during the trip to South Africa, also testified that Campbell had indeed received the diamonds.

Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced next month, but both sides are likely to appeal the ruling, Andersen said. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Charles Taylor Defense: Why Is Gadhafi Not on Trial?

JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images(SIERRA LEONE) -- On Wednesday, the defense for Liberian warlord Charles Taylor called the former leader's war crimes trial politically motivated "neocolonialism," and asked why Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi isn't facing a similar court.

"This was a court, ostensibly and publicly, set up, we are told, to try those who bear the greatest responsibility," Taylor's lead counsel Courtenay Griffiths told the court in his closing arguments. "So why is Colonel Moammar Gadhafi not in the dock?"

Taylor, 63-year-old former President of Liberia, stands accused of acting with or directing African militant groups primarily in Sierra Leone who used child soldiers and committed acts of murder, rape, and sexual slavery, among other charges. The defense did not deny the atrocities took place, but Griffiths argued that there was no proof directly linking Taylor to the crimes.

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian told the court Wednesday that Gadhafi was not indicted because there is "less than a tenth of the evidence" connecting Gadhafi to the rebel groups compared to Taylor. Gadhafi is currently under investigation for crimes against humanity for the recent brutal repression of peaceful protesters in Libya.

"Well perhaps there is one thing we can agree on with the defense. We would agree that Charles Taylor is as likely to use terror against civilians as Moammar Gadhafi," Koumjian said. "Of course, a prosecutor has an obligation to only indict those that they can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

In his argument, Griffiths said there was nothing but circumstantial evidence linking his client to the 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity with which he is charged. Griffiths argued instead that the trial was politically motivated, evidenced by the fact that Gadhafi was not brought to trial, despite allegations he too supported some of the same rebel groups, because of British economic interests in Libya.

"It is to the shame of this prosecution that it has besmirched the lofty ideals of international criminal law by turning this case into a 21st century case of neocolonialism," Griffiths said.

Taylor was directly connected to Gadhafi in this case by a key witness in 2008, former Liberian President Moses Blah. Blah testified that he was among nearly 200 rebels who were recruited by Taylor and sent to Libya for training at a military base near Tripoli before Taylor gained control of Liberia.

There, the men received "full military training" from Libyans, Blah said, including instructions on how to assemble, disassemble, and fire an AK-47. Some were trained in the use of surface-to-air missiles. Taylor would often visit the group in Libya to inspect the men and give inspirational speeches, Blah said.

Gadhafi's support for Taylor was well-known at the time, according to a U.S. State Department cable posted on the website Wikileaks. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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