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Updated: April 26, 2012 22:49 IST

Charles Taylor convicted on all counts

AFP
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He is to be sentenced at The Hague on May 30

Liberian ex-leader Charles Taylor was convicted on Thursday of arming rebels during Sierra Leone's civil war in return for blood diamonds.

In the first judgment against a former head of state by a world court since the World War II Nuremberg trials, Taylor was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

“The trial chamber finds you guilty of aiding and abetting of all these crimes,” said presiding judge Richard Lussick. “The chamber finds beyond reasonable that the accused is criminally responsible... for aiding and abetting in the commission of crimes one to 11 in the indictment,” said Mr. Justice Lussick at the court, based just outside The Hague.

Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie, the former President stood motionless as the verdict was read and showed no emotion afterwards.

He will be sentenced by the same court on May 30.

If sentenced to jail, Taylor will be held in a British prison.

Taylor (64) was convicted on all counts against him including acts of terrorism, murder and rape, committed by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, who waged a terror campaign during a civil war that claimed 120,000 lives between 1991 and 2001.

The trial, which saw model Naomi Campbell testify she had received diamonds from the flamboyant Taylor, wrapped up in March 2011.

Prosecutors alleged that the RUF paid Taylor with illegally mined so-called blood diamonds worth millions, stuffed into mayonnaise jars.

Mr. Justice Lussick said the stones were gathered by the RUF in Sierra Leone, who used slave labour and enlisted child soldiers.

“Children under the age of 15 were abducted and conscripted. They had the letters ‘RUF' carved into their foreheads and backs to prevent escape,” said the judge.

Taylor, who was Liberia's President from 1997 to 2003, dismissed the allegations as “lies” and claiming to be the victim of a plot by “powerful countries”.

Judges also heard gruesome testimony from victims of the Sierra Leone conflict.

Nigerian authorities arrested Taylor in March 2006 when he tried to flee from exile in Nigeria after stepping down as Liberian President three years earlier in a negotiated end to a civil war in his own country.

He was transferred to the SCSL in Freetown, but in June 2006 a U.N. Security Council resolution cleared the way for him to be transferred to The Hague, saying his presence in West Africa was an “impediment to stability and a threat to the peace.”

The court, set up jointly by the Sierra Leone government and the United Nations, has already convicted eight Sierra Leoneans of war crimes and jailed them for between 15 and 52 years after trials in Freetown.

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