On April 26, 2012, Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, became the only former head of state since Nuremberg to be convicted for war crimes or crimes against humanity by an international or hybrid international-national tribunal for his role in fueling neighboring Sierra Leone’s armed conflict.
Taylor’s trial and the issuance of a judgment in a credible judicial process send a strong signal that the world has become a less hospitable place for the highest-level leaders who are accused of committing serious crimes in violation of international law.
Charles Taylor became president of Liberia on August 2, 1997 after years of civil war and an election in which there was an implicit threat that Taylor would resume the war unless he was elected. During the war in Sierra Leone, which killed tens of thousands of civilians, Taylor was implicated in supporting the brutal rebel groups the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the RUF/Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) alliance, which killed, raped, and cut off the limbs of thousands of people. They also forcibly recruited thousands of child soldiers. Taylor allegedly supported the groups by trading diamonds for arms, allowing them to continue terrorizing civilians.
The Special Court indicted Taylor on March 7, 2003 for serious crimes committed during the Sierra Leone conflict. After years of enjoying safe haven in Nigeria, he was apprehended in March 2006 and transferred to The Hague for trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in June 2006.