Sierra Leone: Charles Taylor sentence sends strong message to all potential human rights violators

Brussels-Rome, 30 May 2012

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) today delivered a sentence of 50 years in prison against former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who last month was found guilty of having aided and abetted war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law for his role in supporting Sierra Leonean rebel groups during the armed conflict. President Taylor is the last defendant to appear before the Court, which has issued sentences against eight individuals for their actions during the conflict in Sierra Leone.
Statement by Alison Smith, Legal Counsel of No Peace Without Justice:
“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) applaud today’s sentence of the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL), which sends a deterrent and unequivocal message to leaders considering committing serious crimes in violation of international law: nobody is above the law and even those at the highest level will be held to account for their actions.
 “By reflecting the utmost gravity of Charles Taylor’s crimes, today’s decision is a critical step in Sierra Leone’s long road towards achieving accountability for the horrors of the armed conflict. The Taylor judgment, issued on 26 April, and today's sentence clearly mirror the findings of the SCSL with regard to the campaign of terror and atrocities undertaken by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which was directed and supported by Charles Taylor before, during and after his Presidency. Instrumental to the Special Court’s findings of prima facie humanitarian law violations in the case of the RUF were the UN Human Rights Reports and the No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) Report based on its conflict mapping program conducted in Sierra Leone in 2000-2004, which were deemed “reliable and useful” for understanding “the background to or context of the conflict, as well as to make general findings".
“The issuing of the Charles Taylor judgment brings the mandate of the SCSL, as the principal accountability mechanism to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone since November 1996, near to completion. Now we will see the Court's completion strategy put to the test and hope that the lessons it learns during that process will also be useful for other international courts and tribunals, including the International Criminal Court.

"While the Special Court's legacy is still unfolding, its efforts in reaching out to the people who suffered so much at the hands of those indicted and judged before it remain unparalleled, allowing justice not only to be done, but to be seen to be done by the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, on the radio, in the newspapers and in the courtrooms. It is now essential to carry out all necessary efforts and measures that remain to ensure that the SCSL leaves a meaningful and consolidated legacy for justice, reconciliation and the rule of law, for the government, the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as for future international criminal justice initiatives in Africa”.

No Peace Without Justice and Sierra Leone
NPWJ’s long standing and wide ranging program in Sierra Leone is designed to contribute to accountability for violations of international criminal law. The program has contributed to the establishment and functioning of the Special Court, as well as to strengthening Sierra Leonean society’s ability to address violations of human rights and humanitarian law. In recent years, NPWJ has also been working in Sierra Leone on ICC issues, including implementing legislation and holding seminars and round table discussions. NPWJ plans to continue with its involvement in Sierra Leone for the purpose of enabling the government and local stakeholders to participate in and influence the processes for re-establishing and maintaining the rule of law, peace and stability.
For further information, contact Alison Smith on or +32-2-548-3912 or Nicola Giovannini on or +32-2-548-3915.