Former Liberian President Convicted of Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes

Special Court for Sierra Leone Logo
Charles Taylor

On April 26, 2012, the Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted Charles Taylor, the former President of neighboring Liberia, of 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in the Court’s governing Statute.

The Court’s judgment was based upon detailed findings that the prosecution had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • Sierra Leone rebels had committed crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone by murder (Count 2), rape (Count 4), sexual slavery (Count 5), other inhumane acts (Count 8) and enslavement (Count 10).
  • Said rebels had committed violations of Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions and of their Additional Protocol II in Sierra Leone by acts of terrorism (Count 1), violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder (Count 3); outrages upon personal dignity (Count 6); violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment (Count 7); and pillage (Count 11).
  • Said rebels had committed violations of international humanitarian law in Sierra Leone by conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities (Count 9).
  • Mr. Taylor had provided practical assistance, encouragement and moral support that had a substantial effect on the commission of said crimes by the rebels, and he knew that such crimes were being committed and that his actions would provide said practical assistance, encouragement or moral support to the commission of such crimes. Therefore, Mr. Taylor was guilty of the crime of aiding and abetting the commission of such crimes.

The Court, however, determined that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Taylor had participated in a common plan, design or purpose to commit the rebels’ crimes.

Mr. Taylor will be sentenced in the coming weeks. There is no death penalty in international criminal law, and any prison term would be served in a British prison pursuant to a special agreement with the Court.

The Court was established in 2002 in a partnership between the United Nations and Sierra Leone to prosecute those responsible for atrocities in a conflict that led almost half the population to flee and left an estimated 50,000 dead. With its main seat in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown, the Court already has sentenced eight other leading members from different forces and rebel groups for crimes in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor is its last defendant whose trial was moved to The Hague in the Netherlands for fear of causing unrest in the region where he still has followers.

Not since Karl Doenitz, the German admiral who briefly succeeded Hitler upon his death, was tried and sentenced by the International Military Tribunal has a head of state been convicted by an international court.


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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

3 thoughts on “Former Liberian President Convicted of Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes”

  1. Comment: Charles Taylor’s Sentencing Hearing

    On May 17, 2012, the Special Court for Sierra Leone held its hearing on the sentencing of Charles Taylor, who has been convicted of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    The prosecution requested a sentence of not less than 80 years. This was required, she said, by “the extreme magnitude and seriousness of the crimes that were committed against the people of Sierra Leone” and the absence of any significant mitigating circumstances.

    Mr. Taylor denied encouraging human rights abuses during the long-running Sierra Leone civil war, insisting he had in fact been trying to stabilize the region. Yet he expressed his “sadness and sympathy for crimes suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone.” He urged the court to deliver its sentence in a spirit of “reconciliation, not retribution.”

    Taylor also accused the international community of selectively targeting African heads of state with prosecutions while ignoring offences committed by U.S. forces in Iraq.

    Special Court for Sierra Leone, Press Release: Prosecution, Defense Present Oral Arguments at Taylor Sentencing Hearing (May 16, 2012), LinkClick.aspx? fileticket= YRcdFQKRqQU%3d&tabid=53; Bowcott, Charles Taylor accuses Hague court of targeting African leaders, Guardian (May 16, 2012),

  2. Comment: Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years Imprisonment

    On May 30, 2012, the Special Court for Sierra Leone sentenced Charles Taylor to 50 years imprisonment for his conviction on 11 counts of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sierra Leone in the 1990’s. The judge said these were “some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”

    One of his lawyers said the sentence was excessive ant that an appeal from the conviction and sentence would be filed.

    Simons & Goodman, Judge Gives Taylor 50 Years for ‘Heinous’ Crimes in War, N.Y. Times (May 30, 2012),

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