The Open Society Justice Initiative has welcomed the successful conclusion of the trial of Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, with the rejection of the former Liberian leader's appeal against his conviction and 50-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Taylor was found guilty in April last year on 11 counts—including aiding and abetting mass murder, rape and the recruitment of child soldiers during Sierra Leone's civil war, when he was president of neighboring Liberia. He was also convicted of co-planning attacks with Sierra Leone’s rebel Revolutionary United Front, including the notorious January 1999 invasion of the capital, Freetown.
Taylor is the first former head of state to be found guilty by an international tribunal since the 1946 Nuremburg trials of former Nazi leaders.
James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative, welcomed the conclusion of the trial:
"At a time when justice for grave crimes is all too scarce, this judgment is a huge victory for victims of the horrific crimes of Sierra Leone’s long civil war."
The Justice Initiative monitored the progress of Taylor's trial and appeal on its www.charlestaylortrial.org website. Both the Justice Initiative and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) have been involved in efforts to strengthen governance, civil society, the media and the justice systems in both Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Prior to Taylor's arrest in 2006, the Justice Initiative also supported legal action in Nigeria challenging the legality of the then government's initial decision to grant the former Liberian leader political asylum.