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Former Liberian president guilty of aiding war crimes

Charles Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during Sierra Leone's civil war at The Hague today.

Taylor was convicted on 11 counts including murder, rape and terror, after a trial that has lasted almost five years.
Welcoming the judgment, prosecutor Brenda Hollis said,

"[This] judgment reinforces the new reality, that heads of state will be held to account for war crimes ... With leadership comes not just power and authority, but also responsibility and accountability. No person, no matter how powerful, is above the law."

The conviction was hailed as the first former head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of Nazi leaders.

In a statement, Amnesty International said,

"While today's conviction brings some measure of justice to the people of Sierra Leone, Taylor and the others sentenced by the Special Court are just the tip of the iceberg."

The US State Department said,

"[it sent] a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities, including those in the highest positions of power, that they will be held accountable".

The UK foreign secretary, William Hague, said, 

"This landmark verdict demonstrates that those who have committed the most serious of crimes can and will be held to account for their actions; it demonstrates that the reach of international law is long and not time limited and it demonstrates that heads of state cannot hide behind immunity."

"The verdict can only be a small comfort for the victims and relatives of those killed but the court's authoritative view of what occurred will play an important role in helping the people of Sierra Leone come to terms with the past and consolidate national reconciliation."

Taylor's indictment in 2003 whilst he served as the president of Liberia, established an important principle that a serving head of state was not immune from prosecution.

Two months following his indictment he was forced to give up his power and went into safe exile in Nigeria, at the guarantee of the Nigerian government.

In 2006, Taylor was arrested by Nigerian authorities and sent to Liberia.

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