May 19, 2011, 3:40 PM
Charles Taylor has become the first former head of state to be found guilty for serious international crimes by an international tribunal.
He was convicted and sentenced to 50years imprisonment by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for playing a leading role in the perpetration of mass atrocities during the decade long civil war in sierra leone.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone is an independent international court, set-up in the year 2002,through an agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone to prosecute the leading perpetrators of the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Taylor may yet appeal .It can also get worse for him as the Chief Prosecutor of the Court, Brenda Hollis from the United States, is on record saying that she would lodge an appeal to have the sentence increased. She had wanted a sentence of 80years for Mr. Taylor.
Whatever the motives may turn out to be for indicting Charles Taylor, this verdict is fundamental in the sense that it further reinforces the message that the world is becoming an increasingly smaller place for leaders, however powerful they may seem to be, who commit and preside over the commission of mass atrocities against the weak and vulnerable.
It is to be hoped that the impact of an effective international criminal justice system won’t be limited to Africa and Africans but will also apply to all.
The verdict is particularly significant for Victims of the war in Sierra-Leone. Sentencing Taylor would not reverse the personal harm they have directly or indirectly suffered because of him, but it will probably give them a sense of satisfaction that he has been held accountable for his part in the mass atrocities.
I personally had a firsthand opportunity of gauging just how much damage the war had done in free-town having lived there and worked at the special court for Sierra Leone.
Many of the victims especially women and children struggle to get back to normal life due to the horrific physical and psychological harm that continue to manifest itself in their lives.
Finally, the verdict also gives hope to other victims of mass atrocities that the era of impunity can indeed be effectively ended.
Malick H.B Jallow is a Lawyer who has worked at the special court for Sierra Leone. He has also worked at the international criminal court (Hague) as well as with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa.
He has also worked as a Public Prosecutor at the Attorney Generals Chambers and Ministry of Justice.