Monday, April 03, 2006

Unlike his victims, Taylor gets his day in court

Today, vile scum Charles Taylor will appear before the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone to answer his indictments for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

(Regular readers of this blog will know that I've taken a special interest in this case because I personally have friends and aquaintances who lost relatives, homes and liveliehoods because of Taylor's terrorists. So when I call him 'vile scum,' I make no apologies for the ad hominem)

The BBC reports that the charges against him are as follows:

(abbreviations: WC=war crimes; CAH=crimes against humanity; VIHL=other serious violations of international humanitarian law)

Terrorising the civilian population and collective punishments
1 Acts of terrorism (WC)

Unlawful killings

2 Murder (CAH)

3 Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder (WC)

Sexual violence

4 Rape (CAH)

5 Sexual slavery and any other form of sexual violence (CAH)

6 Outrages upon personal dignity (WC)

Physical violence

7 Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment (WC)

8 Other inhumane acts (CAH)

Use of child soldiers

9 Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities (VIHL)

Abductions and forced labour

10 Enslavement (CAH)


11 Pillage (WC)

Some are upset about suggestions that the Taylor trial be moved to The Hague. Some blame this on 'western interference.' However, it was the president of Liberia herself, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that made that request, calling the Dutch-based court 'more conducive.'

Some people would've preferred Taylor be allowed to remain in exile and impunity in Nigeria so as to 'ensure the peace' of Liberia. This was a false choice. Pres. Sirleaf said that the decision to extradite Taylor was a 'hard decision which ensures the long-term safety of the Liberian people and the security of the state.'

As if to underscore the CONTINUING menace represented by Taylor to the nation he once terrorized more directly, Liberian state security arrested a number of former Taylor generals following reports (admittedly by a one-time rival of Taylor) of an alleged plan to destabilize the government.

Some complain that Pres. Sirleaf was forced into calling for Taylor's extradition only because of pressure from the Bush administration, saying that future badly needed development aid was linked to justice for Taylor. Some argue that while Taylor's extradition was a good thing, the way in which it was forced upon her was tawdry. I tend to see a different view.

As rarely as I agree with the Bush administration, they were right on this one (it was bound to happen eventually). I suspect that Pres. Sirleaf wanted to extradite Taylor from the beginning. After all, she and her supporters were long harassed by Dictator Taylor; in fact, she might well have won the presidency back in 1997 had Taylor not blackmailed the country into choosing him ('vote for me or I'll take the country back to war'). I suspect she wanted to extradite Taylor anyway because of this and because of the continuing threat he represented to the country but she couldn't because Taylor still had strong influence on the Liberian political scene. My guess is that she secretly appreciated the public pressure from the Bush administration because it deflected a lot of the heat that would otherwise have been directed at the new president of a fragile government.

Some complain that the big, bad international community (ie: the evil west who is responsible for 110 percent of Africa's problems) is picking on the former Liberian saint. Why are they picking on poor, innocent Taylor when there are so many other people who did bad things during those wars? For one thing, a court can not prosecute everybody at once. And it makes only sense to start with the most culpable, with the leaders.

Some complain that the Special Court is going after only Taylor, and thus it amounts to 'victors' justice.' This is simply not true. The Special Court has 11 people; 2 of whom are now dead, 1 of whom is still at large and the rest of whom are in custody. Victors' justice? The first person to stand trial was not a rebel, but Sam Hinga Norman, the leader of a PRO-government Sierra Leone militia. His trial is controversial since many in Sierra Leone see him as a patriot and a war hero for combatting the hideous RUF rebels.

And just what exactly did Taylor do to become the world's worst war criminal? The Associated Press' West Africa correspondent during the early 1990s offers her memories. This is but a mere sample of the madness provoked by Taylor's megalomania.

This article from TIME magazine's archive's offers another perspective.

Update: A Liberian woman writing in The New York Times offers her memories of when Taylor's homicidal goons kidnapped her sister. The title of the piece says it all: A Story in Which Only the Happy Ending Is Unusual .


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