Liberia's former President Charles Taylor was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity Thursday by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The court was formed in 2002 to address the UN Security Council’s “deep concern at the very serious crimes committed within the territory of Sierra Leone against the people of Sierra Leone and United Nations and associated personnel and at the prevailing situation of impunity.” The trial was held in The Hague because conducting the proceedings in Sierra Leone itself was deemed potentially too destabilizing for West Africa.
Taylor was found guilty on 11 counts, including murder, conscription of child soldiers, rape and sexual slavery. He was tried for supplying weapons to the brutal rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during Sierra Leone's bloody civil war, which ended in 2001. In return, the rebels supplied him with raw diamonds, so-called blood diamonds.
The court found Taylor guilty of "sustained and significant" support for the rebels who committed the various atrocities, although it found him not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of ordering those abuses himself. The trial lasted 5 years and a sentencing hearing is scheduled for late May where Taylor could face life imprisonment.
Taylor is the first African head of state to be tried in an international court and the first former head of state to have a judgment brought against him since the Nuremburg trials that followed WWII. But, another former African head of state, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, is now awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is also located in The Hague.