Taylor's 50-year sentence draws mixed reactions in Liberia (+video)
Human rights groups welcomed the sentence for Liberia's former president Charles Taylor for his role in Sierra Leone civil war. Some Liberians argued he didn't get fair treatment.
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Global Witness, a human rights group, said that the sentencing of Taylor provided the victims of Sierra Leone's civil war with a sense of justice.Skip to next paragraph
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“Today’s sentence not only reflects the severity of Taylor’s crimes but sends a clear message that individuals who aid and abet war crimes can no longer act with impunity,” said Patrick Alley, founder and director of Global Witness, in a statement.
Some in Monrovia have met the sentencing of Taylor with disbelief.
Ben Slewion, a taxi driver, says the verdict was not fair and the sentencing was too harsh. Echoing Taylor’s final statements to the court Slewion says: “Those who testified were paid.… He didn’t commit the crime,” he said. “It should be 20-30 years so he can come back to Liberia and we can have an ex-president with us.”
Not all Liberians were saddened by the 50-year sentence, however. Peterson Sonya, the head of the Liberian Massacre Survivors Association (LIMASA) says Taylor got the sentence he deserved.
“He should accept it – he could have been given more than that,” says Mr. Sonyah. “All that we have gone through is a result of Taylor.”
But Sonyah says that he hopes the guilty verdict and the sentence will encourage Liberia to try to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations and war crimes that were perpetrated in Liberia itself. During the civil wars, more than 250,000 people were killed, countless others were maimed, and the nation’s infrastructure was shattered.
“This is a message to all of those who were involved in our war that they won’t go scot-free,” Mr. Sonyah says.
After the verdict, international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called on Liberia to follow the
lead of Sierra Leone and prosecute key figures responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In recent weeks, major daily newspapers in Liberia have been running editorials criticizing the "culture of impunity" in Liberia, reigniting the debate as to whether there should be a war crimes court in the country.
Last week, controversy arose when a commissioner from the nation’s Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) was quoted by
media outlets as saying that the body would be forwarding names to the International Criminal Court to be considered for prosecution.
Leroy Urey, the chairman of the commission, said the statement did not reflect the view of the body. Commissioner Thomas Bureh, the man quoted in the article, has stepped away from the comment and said that reconciliation should be Liberia’s primary focus.
According to a report by Front Page Africa, Mr. Urey accused Mr. Bureh of receiving bribes to make the statement: "I think Bureh has been tampered with by people in the erstwhile TRC and the international community, especially UNMIL," said Mr. Urey, according to a report in Front Page Africa. "He has received bribes to go on the air in my absence and say what he said to the press. This attitude of Bureh has caused the commission complete embarrassment."