After a five year trial that included grisly testimony from victims who were missing limbs, former colleagues and even fashion supermodel Naomi Campbell, African warlord Charles Taylor was convicted today for his role in the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone including mass murder, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.
Taylor was found guilty by the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone on all 11 charges for “aiding and abetting” crimes against the people of the African nation committed by militant groups in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Peter Andersen, a spokesperson for the Special Court of Sierra Leone where Taylor was tried, told ABC News the conviction was not a full victory for the prosecution, who hoped Taylor would be found guilty of being part of a “joint criminal enterprise” and having a direct hand in the atrocities as “superior leader” of the groups who committed them. Still, Andersen said today’s ruling — the first against an African head of state — was important to the people of Sierra Leone.
“It’s why we’re here, trying to redress some of the crimes that were committed in Sierra Leone a decade ago,” Andersen said. “I don’t know if you can talk about closure, especially with people who have had their limbs hacked off, but at least you can talk about some steps towards reconciliation and at least attempt to put the past behind them and look towards the future.”
The original indictment filed against Taylor detailed specific crimes conducted by Taylor’s subordinates including “conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups” and multiple instances of mass rape and sexual abuse. Taylor’s defense had argued that though the atrocities certainly did take place, there was only circumstantial evidence linking Taylor directly to the acts.
While already a landmark case for international court, Taylor’s trial captured international headlines after two high-profile celebrities became involved.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell was subpoenaed by the court following an ABC News report about allegations that Taylor had given her uncut “blood diamonds” on a trip to South Africa.
When asked about the diamonds in April 2010, Campbell denied she received any diamonds and then punched the camera in a producer’s hand when pressed for details. But when she took the stand for the criminal court, Campbell admitted she had received a gift of “small dirty-looking stones.”
Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, who ate breakfast with Campbell the morning during the trip to South Africa, also testified that Campbell had indeed received the diamonds.
Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced next month, but both sides are likely to appeal the ruling, Andersen said.