April 26 (Bloomberg) -- Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty by an international tribunal for supporting fighters to commit atrocities during an 11-year civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
Sentencing will take place on May 30, Justice Richard Lussick said after a more than two hour-long reading of the court’s verdict in The Hague.
Taylor, 64, is the first former head of state to be convicted by an international court for war crimes since World War Two. He was charged with 11 counts, including terrorizing civilians, murder, rape and kidnapping children to use as soldiers, according to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was set up by the west African nation and the United Nations in 2002.
The verdict is a “stark warning to other heads of state who are committing similar crimes, or contemplating doing so,” Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in an e-mailed statement from Geneva. “This is undoubtedly a historic moment in the development of international justice.”
Taylor’s trial has been held at the International Criminal Court in The Hague since 2007 because of security reasons.
Sierra Leone’s civil war between the government and Revolutionary United Front guerrillas, backed by Taylor, left 50,000 dead and displaced 2 million before both sides agreed to a cease-fire in 2000.
Liberia Civil War
Taylor came to prominence in Liberia by leading a group of rebels into the country in 1989, starting a civil war that lasted until 1996. He won an election in 1997, becoming president until he resigned in 2003. He went into exile in Nigeria amid international pressure after the Sierra Leone court indictment and was arrested in 2006.
Liberia shares a 306-kilometer (190-mile) border with Sierra Leone. Both nations remain among the least developed in the world, with Sierra Leone ranking 180 and Liberia at 182 on the United Nations Human Development Index of 187 countries. In the years since the conflicts ended, the two countries have held elections that were deemed to be free and fair by international observers.
Former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was the first head of state to be tried by an international criminal tribunal, died before a verdict was given, according to Human Rights Watch. Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast, is the first former leader to appear at the ICC on war crimes.
Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who in 2009 apologized for her past support of Taylor, won a second term in office last year. In Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma will face voters in his second-term bid later this year.