Former Liberian President Charles Taylor became the first head of state since World War II to be convicted by an international war-crimes court, a historic verdict that sends a message that tyrants worldwide will be tracked down and brought to justice.
The warlord-turned- president was found guilty Thursday of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for arming Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for “blood diamonds” mined by slave laborers and smuggled across the border.
Judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone said Taylor played a crucial role in allowing the rebels to continue a bloody rampage during that West African nation’s 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead. Ten years after the war ended, Sierra Leone is still struggling to rebuild.
The 64-year-old Taylor will be sentenced next month after a separate hearing.
The court has no death penalty and no life sentence. Judges have given eight other rebels as much as 52 years in prison.