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When US Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” he must have been referring to such a moment as the one that transpired in the Hague on September 26, 2013, when the Special Court for Sierra Leone upheld Charles Taylor’s war crimes conviction and 50-year jail sentence.

Taylor, a former president of Liberia, had appealed his April 26, 2012 conviction for “aiding and abetting” the commission of war crimes in Sierra Leone through his support for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), an armed group which orchestrated “a campaign of terror against civilians as a primary modus operandi” including its sadistic practice of amputating the limps of civilians—even babies and children, harkening back to the barbarism of Medieval times.

A Comeuppance for A Track Record of Dastardly Crimes

Thankfully, the world has come a long way from those bygone ages. And, therefore, for his “acts and conduct” which were “critical in enabling” the commission of such horrendous crimes, Taylor has deservedly incurred the Wrath of Justice with his 50-year jail sentence.

Taylor’s trial and subsequent conviction and sentencing has spurred concerns about what some see as an international justice system engaged in “selective justice” by predominantly booking African leaders for war crimes and not others.

But, while questions about the ‘fairness’ into how and why some persons accused of crimes against humanity are prosecuted and others are not might be legitimate, to cast Taylor as an ‘innocent’ victim of some overarching imperialistic scheme is to not be aware of—or worse yet, callously discount—the reign of terror Taylor unleashed in the West African sub region, leaving a blood trail of 250,000 dead in Liberia and 50,000 in Sierra Leone.

The truth is, Taylor is as ‘innocent’ an accused—and now a convicted war criminal—as Hitler is ‘innocent’ of the murders of Jews during the Second World War simply because he did not personally switch on the valves in the gas chambers.

By Taylor’s own court admission, he said any person providing support to the rebels in Sierra Leone by April 1998 “would be supporting a group engaged in a campaign of atrocities against the civilian population of Sierra Leone.” Yet, he continued to support the rebels, fully aware of the horrific nature of the crimes being perpetrated against civilians which “shocked the conscience of mankind.”

…to cast Taylor as an ‘innocent’ victim of some overarching imperialistic scheme is to not be aware of—or worse yet, callously discount—the reign of terror Taylor unleashed in the West African sub region, leaving a blood trail of 250,000 dead in Liberia and 50,000 in Sierra Leone.

SENTENCED TO DIE: At 65, Charles Taylor's 50-year jail sentence means he could spend the rest of his life in prison, much like Rudolf Hess, the Nazi politician, who was convicted of crimes against peace after WWII and sentenced to jail where he died after 40 years

SENTENCED TO DIE: At 65, Charles Taylor’s 50-year jail sentence means he could spend the rest of his life in prison, much like Rudolf Hess, the Nazi politician, who was convicted of crimes against peace after WWII and sentenced to jail where he died after 40 years

But Taylor did not stop at providing military assistance to the rebels, he went a step further.

According to court documents, in November 1998, Taylor, who was then president of Liberia, invited Sam Bockarie, an RUF leader, to Liberia where the two concocted the notorious “Bockarie/Taylor Plan” with the ultimate goal of capturing Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city.

To achieve their goal, Taylor “instructed Bockarie to make the operation fearful” and in a subsequent phone conversation, Taylor told Bockarie to “use all means” to capture Freetown, which culminated in a ruthless campaign of atrocities named “Operation No Living Thing.”

Taylor is therefore reaping a comeuppance for his long track record of enabling and facilitating armed groups, not only in Sierra Leone but also in his home country of Liberia, which exacted untold death and suffering upon civilians in those nations.

At 65, Taylor’s 50-year jail sentence might as well be a death sentence—a classic case of the chickens coming home to roost.

Liberia, A Nation Starving for Justice

As a journalist, but more so as a Liberian, to be present in the viewing room staring through the glass panel as Justice George Gelaga King read the appeals court decision evoked, on the one hand, a sense of joy for the people of Sierra Leone who could finally feast on the healing Manna of Justice after years of wallowing in a Wilderness of War, and on the other, envy because my own country Liberia hasn’t experienced such a manifestation of justice despite 10 years of peace.

That notwithstanding, to hear Justice King intone in his raspy voice: “the appeals chamber…affirms the sentence of fifty years imprisonment imposed by the trial chamber” because “Taylor did not demonstrate real and sincere remorse,” and then watch as Taylor was escorted out of the courtroom into his ‘Rudolf Hess-ian Future’ made me feel I was experiencing a palpable manifestation of the moral arc of the universe bending toward justice.

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