''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 5

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Thursday April 26, 2012 - Former President of Liberia Charles Taylor gets his day in court and is convicted on all 11 charges relating to war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of humanitarian law. He was found guilty of aiding and abetting all those beasts who carried out horrendous and mind-boggling acts of cruelty against the civilian population whose only crime it would seem, was that they were unarmed, in their own God-given country and were easy targets when the hordes of heartless, murderous and satanic barbarians attacked.Presiding Judge Justice Lussick reading out a summary of the judgementCharles Taylor listens in during the judgement

History was made today Thursday April 26, 2012 when the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in the Hague delivered judgement in the case of one Charles Ghankay Taylor former war lord and leader of the NPFL rebel faction in Liberia who went on to become President. Charles Taylor was facing charges relating to the horror and carnage, murder, rape, arson and abductions carried out by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Foday Sankoh, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, (AFRC) on their own separate and in joint enterprises in the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil otherwise known as the beasts.

As has been echoed by all individuals and organisations including the United Nations interested in putting an end to impunity and the wanton destruction of lives and property, the conviction of Charles Taylor should send a message to all of his kind who believe that as long as they are in power, as long as they hold and manipulate the reins of government they can get away with murder, arson, rape and any and all unwholesome acts that deprive others of their humanity, livelihood and life.

Human Rights Watch in a statement headlined - Sierra Leone: Landmark Conviction of Liberian Ex-President - World Less Hospitable for Leaders Who Commit Grave Crimes noted

“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...the judgment has significance for people across West Africa.

Another rights group Amnesty International also welcomed the verdict but also added that those convicted so far are just the tip of the iceberg of crimes against humanity with known perpetrators still walking the streets of Monrovia and Freetown

"The conviction of Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sends out a clear message to leaders the world over that no-one is immune from justice - but while the verdict brings some satisfaction for his victims, more must now be done...."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, Director of Amnesty International Sierra Leone.“This verdict can also be seen as a reminder for Taylor’s home country Liberia that those responsible for the crimes committed during Liberia’s conflict must be brought to justice. While the conviction is a milestone, Amnesty International remains concerned that thousands of people who suffered atrocities during a decade of armed conflict are yet to see their perpetrators brought to justice.”

The Judgement summary was read by Presiding Judge Justice Richard Lussick who in some two highlighted the various areas of the law that led to the court's decision which took in all aspects of Charles Taylor's support for the RUF and AFRC as well as their joint forces - the AFRC/RUF. The summary brought back memories of the horrors visited upon the civilian population in Freetown, Koidu, Kenema, Makeni and other areas of operations of the two forces as well as elements of the NPLF faction of rebels headed by Charles Taylor. It is also worth noting the revelations that were unfolded in that summary with words like Fitti Fatta coming to the knowledge of many Sierra Leoneans for the first time.

Operations against civilians were meant to be "fearful" - aimed at instilling into the hearts of civilians and all those who found themselves in the hands of rebels with rape, mutilation, murder and other forms of deliberate campaigns aimed at making civilians suffer before they succumbed to their injuries often under extremely cruel and horrendous circumstances. "That their operations were given titles such as “Operation No Living Thing”, and “Operation Spare No Soul” made explicit the intent of the RUF and AFRC to wage a campaign of terror against civilians as part of their war strategy." said Justice Lussick.

This observation in the summary of the judgement should be of concern, more so as it concerns a Charles Taylor who was on one hand seen as being a part of the peace process in Sierra Leone while deep down he was quite another monster with a different purpose.

The Trial Chamber accordingly finds that while the Accused publicly played a substantial role in the Sierra Leone peace process, including as a member of the ECOWAS Committee of Five (later Committee of Six), secretly he was fuelling hostilities between the AFRC/RUF and the democratically elected authorities in Sierra Leone, by urging the former not to disarm and actively providing them with arms and ammunition, acting, as the Prosecution described, as “a two-headed Janus”.

The summary does not go into the details of who did what, where and when but it does touch on some aspects that should be of serious concern. Eddie Kanneh who was escorted back into Sierra Leone by sitting President Ernest Bai Koroma after he escaped justice for his crimes against the civilians of Sierra Leone needs mentioning as he played an active role in the "blood diamond" history of our beloved country.

Following the ECOMOG Intervention, from February 1998 to July 1999, the diamonds delivered to the Accused by Sam Bockarie directly, as well as indirectly through intermediaries such as Eddie Kanneh and Daniel Tamba, were given to him in order to get arms and ammunition from him, or sometimes for “safekeeping” on behalf of the RUF. From February 1998 to July 1999, diamonds were delivered to the Accused by Sam Bockarie directly. These diamonds were delivered to the Accused for the purpose of obtaining arms and ammunitions from him. During this period, diamonds were also delivered through intermediaries such as Eddie Kanneh and Daniel Tamba.

It was under the watch of Eddie Kanneh when he was AFRC/RUF junta Secretary of State for the East that a number of politicians and prominent citizens of Kenema were tortured and murdered by the AFRC/RUF junta. They included the flamboyant and colourful B. S. Massaquoi and at least two medical doctors.The murdered politician B S Massaquoi - Photo: Focus edited by the late Ambrose Ganda Many were subjected to various forms of torture including rape, mutilation and other serious violations of humanitarian law.

There are some schools of thought who still believe that justice has yet to be done in the case of the victims in terms of compensation as well as bringing to book the foot soldiers and lesser commanders who actually directed the attacks against the civilian population. Among the coterie of President Ernest Bai Koroma so-called "Protection Officers" are war criminals who directly participated in the war crimes and related offences against the civilian population. Idrissa Kamara aka Leatherboot has been implicated in a number of such activities during those AFRC/RUF operations and in at least ne case during the August 18, 1997 pro-democracy demonstrations against the junta of Johnny Paul Koroma did not raise a finger when a female protester was raped and then shot to death in one of the OAU villas they occupied during junta rule.

Another mystery that needs to be solved is the role of Burkina Faso in our troubles and why up Blaise Campaore has still not been brought to justice as at least one UN report directly implicates Burkina Faso in the shipment of arms and ammunition to the rebels in Sierra Leone through Charles Taylor's Liberia. Note this portion of the judgement summary -

...the Accused was able to obtain arms and had the capacity to supply arms and ammunitions from Liberia to the rebel groups in Sierra Leone. Moreover, he had the capacity to facilitate larger arms shipments through third countries. Of the arms shipments to the RUF and AFRC linked to the Accused during the Indictment period, the largest arrived not from Liberia, but through Liberia from third party states, primarily Burkina Faso.

As the world waited with somewhat rising expectations as to the outcome and the real decision by the court, rights activists and victims breathed a sigh of relief as well as joy when Justice Lussick got to item 181.

181. Having considered all the evidence and the arguments of the parties, the Statute and the Rules, and based upon the findings as determined by the Trial Chamber in its Judgement, the Trial Chamber unanimously finds you guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of the following crimes pursuant to Article 6.1 of the Statute during the Indictment period, and planning the commission of the following crimes in the attacks on Kono and Makeni in December 1998, and in the invasion of and retreat from Freetown between December 1998 and February 1999:

Count 1: Acts of terrorism, a violation of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II pursuant to Article 3(d) of the Statute.

Count 2: Murder, a crime against humanity pursuant to Article 2(a) of the Statute.

Count 3: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder, a violation of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II pursuant to Article 3(a) of the Statute.

Count 4: Rape, a crime against humanity, punishable under Article 2(g) of the Statute.

Count 5: Sexual slavery, a crime against humanity, punishable under Article 2(g) of the Statute.

Count 6: Outrages upon personal dignity, a violation of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II pursuant to Article 3(e) of the Statute.

Count 7: Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment, a violation of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II pursuant to Article 3(a) of the Statute

Count 8: Other inhumane acts, a crime against humanity pursuant to Article 2(i) of the Statute.

Count 9: Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, another serious violation of
international humanitarian law pursuant to Article 4(c) of the Statute.

Count 10: Enslavement, a crime against humanity pursuant to Article 2 (c) of the Statute.

Count 11: Pillage, a violation of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II pursuant to Article 3(f) of the Statute.

It was quite a relief to many. At least justice has been served and impunity crushed. Charles Taylor former war lord and President of Liberia now awaits his fate - just how long he will serve in a UK prison.

Reports from Liberia say there were those who had badly wanted Charles Taylor to be let off the hook so he can return home to Liberia as a conquering and triumphant hero. His supporters had gone the whole length to ensure that he would receive a somewhat Presidential welcome never mind his role in Sierra Leone. One supporter in a BBC interview said that some 99 percent if not more Liberians want Charles Taylor freed. His statistical interpretation could have been badly flawed because as it was reported in yet another BBC programme, those who were in the majority and who were praying that Charles Taylor was jailed were scared stiff to talk openly to the media for fear that should he be freed, they would have been fingered for punishment by Charles Taylor supporters.

In one programme one commentator was heard quoting the age-old myth - "He killed my mama, he killed my papa...I will vote for him". This is not a statement confirming just how popular Charles Taylor was in Liberia. This is a story of terror, sheer terror - that having killed both mother and father, the son or daughter risked death and the end of the family if he/she did not vote for Charles Taylor. It is not a statement of genuine support. It is "support" derived from terror, mindless terror.

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©Sierra Herald 2002