26 September 2013 The Prosecutor of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) today welcomed the court’s decision to uphold the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Mr. Taylor was convicted in April 2012 on 11 counts for crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war and subsequently sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Prosecutor Brenda J. Hollis today welcomed the judgment of the Court’s Appeals Chamber upholding the convictions and sentencing of Mr. Taylor, the first former head of State to be convicted for war crimes by an international criminal tribunal since Nuremberg in 1946.
“This final decision affirms Mr. Taylor’s criminal responsibility for grave crimes which caused untold suffering to many thousands, if not tens of thousands, of victims in Sierra Leone,” she stated in a news release. “Today’s judgment brings some measure of justice to those victims who suffered so horribly because of Charles Taylor.”
“The Appeals Chamber today confirmed what the Trial Chamber made clear, that heads of State will be held to account for war crimes and other international crimes. No person, no matter how powerful, is above the law. Today’s judgment affirms that with leadership comes not just power and authority, but also responsibility and accountability.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed today’s appeal judgment and congratulated everyone at the Special Court for this important achievement.
“This is a historic and momentous day for the people of Sierra Leone and the region,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. “The judgment is a significant milestone in international criminal justice, as it confirms the conviction of a former head of State for aiding, abetting and planning war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Also welcoming the judgment was the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, who stated that the decision clearly affirms that no one is above the law. “This verdict is a milestone for the accountability of those who use child soldiers, and another warning to warlords and military commanders that child recruitment will not go unpunished.”
A news release issued by Ms. Zerrougui’s office noted that the use of child soldiers was “extensive” in the conflict in Sierra Leone. Children under the age of 15 had been used to participate actively in armed combat, and were also recruited and used to amputate limbs and to perform auxiliary duties such as manning checkpoints, guarding diamond mines, going on food-finding missions and acting as bodyguards.
The SCSL is an independent tribunal set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since 30 November 1996.
The Court will close its doors before the end of 2013, and will be immediately replaced by the Residual Special Court. A primary function of the Residual Special Court will be the continued protection and support of Special Court witnesses and individuals at risk on account of testimony. It will respond robustly and effectively to any reports of interference with, or harassment of, witnesses.
“The Special Court will soon close,” said Ms. Hollis, “but the courage of the witnesses and the people of Sierra Leone will never be forgotten, nor should it be.”
News Tracker: past stories on this issue