IANSA members react to the conviction of Charles Taylor

Thanks to Kerian N. Pelenah of Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons for sharing this statement on the conviction of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Charles Taylor’s Conviction: The Beginning of an End to The Culture of Impunity?

April 26, 2012 will be remembered as a historic day for victims and survivors of armed conflicts and violence in Africa. It is the day that former warlord and President of Liberia, Charles Ghankay Taylor, was found guilty by the UN-backed Special Court of Sierra Leone of war crimes and crimes against humanity, becoming the first powerful head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

The special tribunal which tried the former Liberian president found him guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons,outrages upon personal dignity, and conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities.

Significantly, Charles Taylor’s trial and subsequent conviction add new meaning to civil society’s campaign against the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons and for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). But more significantly, it brings justice for hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans who have suffered mass atrocities and gross human rights violations at the hands of the Taylor-supported Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and other militias during Sierra Leone’s brutal civil conflict.

However, it is worrisome thatwhile Sierra Leoneans have finally gotten some form of justice, victims and survivors of armed violence in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, and other parts of Africa are still denied access to justice.

For those victims and survivors - mostly women and children, there will be no closure until their perpetrators, like Charles Taylor,are brought to justice.

In this light, Taylor’s conviction by the UN-backed Special Court of Sierra Leone must be seen as the beginning of an end to the culture of impunity in Africa. And the international community must now follow up on the Taylor trial by bringing to justice all other warlords and leaders, former and present,who bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including Laurent Gbagbo (Cote d’Ivoire), Omar al-Bashir (Sudan), Joseph Kony (Uganda), Thomas Lubanga (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), and Prince Johnson (Liberia).