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Liberia urges calm ahead of Charles Taylor’s verdict

Charles Taylor has been on trial for more than six years (© 2009 AFP)

The government of Liberia on Wednesday urged people to stay calm ahead of the imminent war crimes verdict on former president Charles Taylor from the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

“The government calls on all Liberians to remain calm and peaceful and to pray for the nation and peace,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s office said in a statement.

The special court in The Hague is expected to pronounce its verdict Thursday on Taylor, who was on trial for almost four years, on 11 counts of war crimes allegedly committed from November 1991 to January 2002, during the civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

“The Government reaffirms its confidence in the international justice system, especially as a founding member of the United Nations, and believes that the outcome of the trial will be accepted by all Liberians irrespective of our differences,” the statement said.

Taylor will be judged in The Hague for his indirect role in war crimes such as murder and terrorising civilians, rape and recruiting child soldiers in Sierra Leone in return for “blood diamonds” mined by the rebels.

He launched a rebellion in Liberia in 1989 in a bid to overthrow the hated regime of Samuel Doe, a move which descended into bloody civil war with a panoply of factions.

Taylor was elected president in 1997 but two years later civil war broke out anew and fighting only ended when he fled to Nigeria in 2003.

He remained out of reach there until Nigeria in March 2006 bowed to international calls to extradite him.

But while Sierra Leone swiftly set up a court to try those responsible for atrocities during its 1991-2002 civil war, Liberia has not done the same after back-to-back conflicts between 1989 and 2003 which left nearly 250,000 dead.

A truth and reconciliation commission named Taylor among those who should be prosecuted for war crimes, and suggested others including Nobel Peace Laureate Sirleaf be barred from office.

Sirleaf admitted financing Taylor in the early days of his rebellion before she realised the extent of his atrocities, but reconciliation efforts have stalled and Liberia remains deeply divided.

Signature : MONROVIA (AFP)

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