Charles Taylor sentenced to 50 years for brutalising the people of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 May 2012:

Former president of Liberia and notorious warlord in the West African sub-region, has this morning received a whopping 50 years prison sentence, passed by the Trial Chamber at The Hague.

He was found guilty last month of aiding and abetting the murderous RUF and AFRC rebels in Sierra Leone, who were responsible for killing, raping, amputating and humiliating  thousands of people in the country.

Taylor looked tired, but showed no emotion or remorse for the seriousness of the crimes committed against Sierra Leoneans.

He will be serving his term in a British jail, which many in Sierra Leone believe is going to be a life of luxury, for a man who brought so much suffering to hundreds of thousands now languishing in destitution and abject poverty.

It is estimated that Taylor’s imprisonment at the Belmash Prison will cost the British Taxpayer over £80,000 a year, an expenditure equivalent to the annual cost of running a health centre in Freetown.

Charles Taylor was convicted in April on all eleven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity; ranging from murder, child abduction, aiding and abetting the ruthless RUF and AFRC rebel fighters in Sierra Leone.

Count 1: acts of terrorism (a war crime)

Count 2:  murder (a crime against humanity)

Count 3: murder (a war crime)

Count 4: rape (a crime against humanity)

Count 5: sexual slavery (a crime against humanity)

Count 6: outrages upon personal dignity (a war crime)

Count 7: cruel treatment (a war crime)

Count 8: inhumane acts, including mutilations and amputations (a crime against humanity)

Count 9: the recruitment, enlistment and use of child soldiers

Count 10: enslavement (a crime against humanity)

Count 11: pillage (a war crime)

The Court upheld that he had aided and abetted the RUF and AFRC rebels between 1996 and 2002.

He had supplied them with arms and ammunition, communication equipment, military personnel, operational and moral support, making him individually culpable for their crimes.

After the conviction last month, the Director of Amnesty International in Sierra Leone – Mr. Brima Abdulai Sheriff, told reporters that;

“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.”

“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,” 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 Lomé Peace Accord and the clear recommendations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC),” said Sheriff.

“Reparations are integral to achieving justice for the victims and assisting them to rebuild their lives.“

In 2004, the TRC’s report made detailed recommendations for the provision of reparations to those who had suffered throughout the conflict.

However, more needs to be done to ensure long-term sustainable plan is in place so that all victims receive full and extensive reparations.

One survivor of a double amputation to the arms told Amnesty International, “There are no plans to make reparations for victims. We have been asking them for years throughout the court proceedings to find ways and means to compensate us but victims are still languishing in the streets and begging for a living.”

RUF warlord – Foday sankoh

Sierra Leone is still recovering from the Foday Sankoh (RUF), Johnny Paul Koroma (AFRC), and Charles Taylor war enterprise.

Yet there are those in power in Sierra Leone who are fully aware of Johnny Paul Koroma’s whereabouts (one of the world’s most wanted war criminals), who may be  shielding and funding his luxurious lifestyle in another West African State.

The wheels of justice may be turning very slowly, but those in power in Sierra Leone who may be unlawfully shielding Johnny Paul Koroma, must remember that international justice has a long reach, and will one day hold them to account.

Those who inflict pain on their fellow men out of greed and hate, shall never evade or avoid justice.

They will be punished, as Charles Taylor who is now 62, will today begin to contemplate spending the rest of his natural life in prison.

Today’s sentencing of Charles Taylor will not bring back those killed or change the lives of those suffering from the brutal effects of the ten year war in Sierra Leone.

But it brings renewed faith in the justice system, and hope that no African leader can evade justice for crimes committed against humanity.

It is estimated that over 2.5 million people in Sierra Leone are still displaced and living in abject poverty, with no jobs or means of securing a livelihood.

Whist Billions of Dollars have been poured into rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, very little effort has been made in rehabilitating the displaced, many of whom are living in tin shacks in the suburbs of the capital – Freetown.

Government policy in Sierra Leone does not address the need to ensure social justice and economic empowerment of those still trapped in poverty and destitution, following the ten year war.

Freetown is over-populated. Over a million young people cannot find work, nor are they willing to relocate to the provincial towns were the government is proud to announce, that thousands of mining jobs are being created.

Youth crime, poor housing, unemployment and a general feeling of hopelessness, are giving serious cause for concern, with elections just six months away.

The political stability of Sierra Leone still hangs on a fine thread, which must not be allowed to break. There is a lot at stake, and economic growth will not come on the backs of instability and increasing levels of youth crime.

Taylor has today received his just dessert. Now is the time for those trying to survive the consequences of an unjust war to receive social and economic justice.

More has to be done to avoid history repeating itself before our very eyes.

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