The United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone will today deliver an appeals judgment in the landmark trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
The ruling could have broader implications for the prosecution of high-level officials by international tribunals.
Taylor is the first former head of state to be convicted by an international or hybrid international-national criminal tribunal since the Nuremberg trials. On April 26, 2012, Taylor was convicted of 11 counts of participating in the planning of, and aiding and abetting, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by rebel groups during Sierra Leone’s civil armed conflict, which lasted from 1991 to 2002.
On May 30, 2012, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison. With the appeals judgment, the Special Court for Sierra Leone will complete its trials and judgments.
The court tried and convicted eight other people associated with all warring factions during the conflict for “bearing the greatest responsibility” for atrocities committed.
A controversial appeals ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in February 2013 limited liability for aiding and abetting in a way that makes responsibility for high-level officials implicated in grave crimes more difficult to establish, Human Rights Watch said. That ruling is not binding on the Special Court for Sierra Leone, but may be considered.
“The trial and judgment of Charles Taylor sets out a clear marker that even those at the highest levels of power can be held to account,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.
“The Taylor trial, and the Sierra Leone Special Court’s work overall, have made a major contribution to justice for brutal crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s conflict.”
Meanwhile the family, friends and close associates of Mr. Taylor in Monrovia had a intercessory service for him at the Dominion Christian Church in Sinkor.