Taylor verdict historic - UN rights chief

2012-04-26 17:17

Geneva - High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the war crimes conviction of Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor Thursday means tyrannical rulers can no longer retire on blood money.

"This is undoubtedly a historic moment in the development of international justice," Pillay said in a statement.

"A former president, who once wielded immense influence in a neighbouring country where tens of thousands of people were killed, mutilated, raped, robbed and repeatedly displaced for years on end, has been arrested, tried in a fair and thorough international procedure, and has now been convicted of very serious crimes."

The Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted Taylor, 64, of helping rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone wage a campaign of terror against the mineral-rich country's people during a decade-long civil war that killed 120 000.

Taylor was paid in so-called blood diamonds, illegally mined by Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, who were known for murdering and raping civilians and chopping off limbs with machetes.

After being overthrown in 2003 Taylor fled to Nigeria, which extradited him three years later under international pressure.

Pillay said the verdict was a "stark warning" to other heads of state.

"The days when tyrants and mass murderers could, even when they had been deposed, retire to a life of luxury in another land are over," she said.

"And so they should be. Few things are more repugnant than seeing people with so much blood on their hands, living on stolen money with no prospect of their victims seeing justice carried out."

Amensty International

"There is no doubt that today's verdict sends an important message to high-ranking state officials; no matter who you are or what position you hold, you will be brought to justice for crimes," said Brima Abdulai Sheriff, Amensty International's Sierra Leone head.

While the conviction by the Special Court for Sierra Leone would bring some measure of justice for victims, Taylor and the others sentenced by the court are just the "tip of the iceberg," said Sheriff.

"Thousands of persons suspected of criminal responsibility for incidences of unlawful killings, rape and sexual violence, mutilations and the use of children in Sierra Leone's armed conflict have never been investigated, much less prosecuted."

"Sadly, only a limited number of Sierra Leone's thousands of victims who bear the terrible scars of the conflict have received reparations, despite the Lome Peace Accord and the clear recommendations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

The verdict by the court, sitting in Leidschendam in the Netherlands, can also be seen as a reminder for Taylor's home country Liberia that those responsible for the crimes committed during its own conflicts must be brought to justice, Amnesty said.

Human Rights Watch

"Powerful leaders like Charles Taylor have for too long lived comfortably above the law," said Elise Keppler, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch.

"Taylor's conviction sends a message to those in power that they can be held to account for grave crimes," she said.

"This judgement sends a clear message around the world: that political leaders who perpetrate atrocities to gain or to retain power can be held accountable."

Keppler added, "This is a victory for Sierra Leonean victims of Taylor's brutal crimes, and all those seeking justice when the worst abuses are committed."

She also pointed a finger at Liberia, saying, "The Liberian government's lack of progress in bringing prosecutions against those implicated in war crimes during its own armed conflict is hugely disappointing.

"Liberian victims of massacres, rape, and torture are every bit as deserving of justice as victims in Sierra Leone."

  • Bob - 2012-04-26 17:40

    Zuma is making no effort to curb Boer farm Genocide. He knows it is happening, yet he does not condemn it openly and does not publicly speak out about any effort to stop it. Furthermore he sang the song at the ANC centenary celebrations, thereby in effect promoting Boer genocide As head of state, he is therefore complicit in these murders

  • barry.dogg.fritz - 2012-04-26 17:48

    Now they just have to bring zimbobwe mugabe to justice , oh sorry my mistake there is no oil there , so he will rule until the end of days

  • Sbu Zondi - 2012-04-26 17:53

    Are we going to see the same being done to the western leaders, George Bush, Nicholas Sarkozy for supporting rebels that killed Gadaffi

      Gary - 2012-04-26 18:51

      No, basically because Gadaffi deserved to die ... the big wheel went round!

      Wendy - 2012-04-26 19:51

      Absolutely. An international court is not aimed at Africa - one can look west, north or east of Africa to find other leaders who are murderers and crooks. I agree Mugabe is one of them, but Blair and Bush are two others in my opinion.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-26 18:26

    Are we going to see the same being done to the leaders of Russia and Iran, Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for supporting an illegitimate government that killed TEN THOUSAND Syrians !!!

  • michael.e.bowery - 2012-04-26 19:15

    Good. Now what about close-at-hand villains Like Robert Mugabe, before he does all a favour by dying naturally?????????????

  • George - 2012-04-26 19:19

    What about Israel,the slaughtering of Palestinians daily. What about De Klerk concerning genocide in South Africa and neighbouring states like Botswana,Lesotho,Mozambique,Swaziland,Zambia and Zimbabwe.The last but least,George W.Bush and Tony Blair about the genocide in Iraq and Afganistan.

  • Alex - 2012-04-26 19:35

    You damn right its historic its taken long enough to get 1 conviction!

  • TawwaTienie - 2012-04-26 19:42

    Navi Pillay \r\n\r\nIs time to give more attention to all murders, rapes and attacks to your own country too!

  • Vincent - 2012-04-26 21:42

    Wha about Bush?

  • benjaminmotto - 2012-04-27 03:55

    It is a very big step we salute the UN For that but you need to do some thing about Omar Al Bashir the watch is tikking this freedom in the South must not be wested because of 1 person who bielive that Black pple can not have oil but only the Arabs.

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