An international tribunal in The Hague has found former Liberian President Charles Taylor criminally responsible for crimes against humanity committed during Sierra Leone's civil war.
A United Nations-backed court in The Hague has unanimously found Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting atrocities in connection with Sierra Leone's civil war.
"The trial chamber finds you guilty of aiding and abetting of all these crimes," presiding judge Richard Lussick told the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague following a preamble of well over two hours.
Lussick said the former warlord, who was later elected president of Libera, provided arms, ammunition, communications equipment and planning to rebels in the 1991-2002 Sierra Leone civil war. The judge said Taylor’s support to the rebels was "sustained and significant."
The 64-year-old Taylor faced 11 charges related to the decade-long war in neighboring Sierra Leone, where he was linked to two rebel groups, and is expected to appeal the conviction. He was put on trial on allegations of funnelling arms, ammunition and mining equipment to the rebels in return for “blood diamonds.”
The charges included acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery and enslavement.
Rebels from the Revolutionary United Front, described by prosecutors in the case as Taylor's “proxy army,” were notorious for their brutality, routinely cutting off the limbs of their enemies. Many of their victims testified during the trial, which began in 2007 and was completed just over a year ago.
Among those who testified during the trial was the British model Naomi Campbell, who said she had received diamonds from Taylor.
Taylor, who served as president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He claims to have been the victim of a political witch-hunt aimed at preventing him from returning to public office.
The reading of the verdict was broadcast live on international news networks. The court is to reconvene for sentencing on May 30. Taylor could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
More than 120,000 people are believed to have died in Sierra Leone's civil war.
The trial is seen as precedent-setting, as Taylor is the first former head of state to convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
pfd/acb (AP, dpa)