In Monrovia, Charles Taylor's wife awaits his verdict
Charles Taylor, the former Liberian leader accused of 11 counts of war crimes, will learn his fate tomorrow in what is seen as a milestone moment for international justice.
For the last five years, Victoria Taylor has been waiting for her husband Charles to come home.Skip to next paragraph
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At the couple's dusty mansion on the edge of Monrovia, everything is as he left it. Her husband's collection of Picasso prints lines the walls of the drawing room. A wide veranda looks out over an empty tennis court and the unkempt garden beyond.
"A house without a husband is not a home," Victoria says, leaning back in a faded upholstered chair.
But White Flower, the Taylor family residence, is no ordinary home. And Charles Taylor, the man Victoria married in 2002, is no ordinary husband.
Taylor, the former Liberian leader accused of 11 counts of war crimes and human rights abuses during Sierra Leone's war, will learn his fate Thursday in what is being deemed a milestone moment for international justice irrespective of the verdict. Taylor is the first African former head of state to go on trial in a UN-backed, international court.
West Africa analyst Abdou Aine, who heads a Senegal-based think tank, said "international justice is on trial" as well as Taylor. "Thursday's verdict will set the tone for future trials of African leaders," he says, "including the trial of former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, scheduled to open in the ICC in June."
The verdict will be read out in an air-conditioned courtroom 3,000 miles from the humid hills of Sierra Leone, and even further from Monrovia – a city the ex-rebel chief is unlikely, if convicted, to ever return to.
Taylor is charged with such crimes as orchestrating murder, instigating sexual violence, and recruiting child soldiers for Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The rebel group is notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians, cutting at the elbow (known as "short sleeves") or at the wrist ("long sleeves"). Taylor, who has never been to Sierra Leone, is accused of masterminding the atrocities from neighboring Liberia.
In Pictures: War criminals on trial
Sipping from a dainty china teacup on the patio of the family home, Victoria cuts a more delicate figure. She married Taylor a year before he stepped down as President of Liberia and went into exile in Nigeria in 2003. From there, he was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a UN-backed court charged with investigating crimes committed during Sierra Leone's civil war, which ended in 2002. Taylor's is the final case in the mandate of the court, which sentenced RUF leader Issa Sesay to 52 years behind bars.