Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor was today convicted of war crimes for arming Sierra Leone’s rebels in return for blood diamonds during the 1991-2001 civil war.
International judges found the former Liberian leader guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war, at his trial in The Hague.
Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor had sold diamonds and bought weapons on behalf of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels – and knew they were committing crimes.
“The chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is criminally responsible… for aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes 1 to 11 in the indictment,” judge Lussick told the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in the outskirts of The Hague, as he read the verdict.
Taylor has been on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone for almost five years.
He was accused of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.
But he was cleared of ordering their crimes.
Human rights groups have described the judgement as historic.
“This is an incredibly significant decision,” Elise Keppler from the campaign group Human Rights Watch told the BBC. “Today is a landmark moment.”
A sentence hearing will be held on 16 May, with the sentence to be handed down on 30 May, Judge Lussick added.
Taylor is expected to serve his sentence in a British prison as the Dutch government only agreed to host the trial if any ensuing jail term was served in another country.