A self-styled international "court" under the auspices of the United Nations ruled Thursday that former Liberian war lord and ruthless dictator Charles Taylor - who worked with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for years - was guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone’s ghastly civil war. He could face life in prison when his sentence is announced next month.
According to the judges on the international “tribunal,” the ex-Liberian “President” and former CIA asset was guilty of "sustained and significant" support for a reign of terror that ravaged the neighboring West African nation of Sierra Leone. He pled not guilty to all of the charges and continues to maintain his innocence — claiming the prosecution is the work of “vindictive” colonial regimes.
The "court” however, declared Taylor guilty on 11 counts anyway. Dozens of witnesses testified for and against him during the UN trial, including some celebrities. Taylor was accused of mass murder, rape, sexual slavery, using child soldiers, torture, cannibalism, and more. An estimated 500,000 people were killed or mutilated in the decade-long conflict.
The Netherlands-based UN court — funded largely by Western taxpayers — did not find evidence during the five-year trial to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Taylor actually ordered the atrocities. However, after a year of deliberating about the testimony and reviewing the case, the so-called “Special Court of Sierra Leone” ruled that he aided and abetted the commission of war crimes by arming rebel groups in exchange for diamonds.
"The accused is criminally responsible ... for aiding and abetting in the crimes," presiding “judge” Richard Lussick announced at The Hague. “The trial chamber finds the accused cannot be held responsible for ordering the crimes.... The trial chamber, having already found the accused guilty of aiding and abetting, does not find the accused also instigated these crimes."
Taylor, however, was more than just an ordinary African war lord-turned-tyrant, according to explosive details about his past exposed earlier this year by the Boston Globe. Citing official U.S. government documents and a variety of sources, the paper reported what had long been suspected — that the despot began working with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the CIA starting in the early 1980s.
Of course, Taylor denied the charges, even threatening to sue the newspaper for publishing the story. But his former associates and even his own past testimony indicated that a special relationship with the U.S. government almost certainly existed – American agents apparently even broke him out of a maximum-security prison.
It was not clear what exactly the dictator and war lord may have offered the American intelligence community. But speculation abounds, with experts saying that Taylor’s involvement with the late Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi and his prominent role in the overthrow of various governments may have been the key.
U.S. officials declined to comment about the situation or the relationship with Taylor. And even though the U.S. government originally appeared hesitant to support the global court prosecution of Taylor, it eventually agreed to pressure the government of Nigeria to hand him over to the UN and even became an eager proponent of locking him up.
“I think the intelligence community’s past relationship with Taylor made some in the US government squeamish about a trial, despite knowing what a bad actor he was,” former U.S. Defense Department investigator Allan White, who worked on building the UN’s case against Taylor, told the Globe in an interview. He also said the revelations of Taylor’s ties to U.S. intelligence agencies reinforced his long-held suspicions.
UN court spokesman Peter Andersen told ABC News that the sweeping conviction was not really a full “victory” for the prosecution, which sought to have Taylor convicted of being one of the masterminds behind the bloodshed. Both sides are likely to appeal the ruling. But it was still an important verdict, Andersen claimed.
"It's why we're here, trying to redress some of the crimes that were committed in Sierra Leone a decade ago," Andersen said. "I don't know if you can talk about closure, especially with people who have had their limbs hacked off, but at least you can talk about some steps towards reconciliation and at least attempt to put the past behind them and look towards the future."
Analysts described the ruling as a “milestone verdict” in a “landmark case” that was supposedly seen as “important test of the international justice system.” Apparently the former dictator was the first ex-head of state to have a judgment issued against him by a so-called international court since the post-World War II Nuremberg trials.
It was claimed that allowing the trial to take place in Sierra Leone would have been “destabilizing” for the region. In reality, however, the UN and its various organs have desperately been seeking legitimacy to establish a global “justice” system for decades. The self-styled International Criminal Court (ICC) even claims to have universal jurisdiction over a wide array of offenses including “aggression.”
The U.S. government and other powers, however, have never formally adopted any treaty granting the system any semblance of authority. Nonetheless, ICC prosecutors announced that they were investigating NATO forces for alleged war crimes committed during Obama’s bloody and unconstitutional “regime change” attack on Libya — a war purportedly authorized by the UN itself, not the U.S. Congress as required by the Constitution.
Opponents of the UN and its so-called court — which purports to have the authority to prosecute any individual on Earth — have called the entire system an illegitimate “fraud” that should be abolished. At the very least, the U.S. government should withdraw all support and ensure that American taxpayers do not have to finance it, critics say.
As senior editor William Jasper noted in an article for The New American as the court was first coming into existence, “If the ICC architects have their way, the entire planet will soon become a global insane asylum — with the inmates in charge.” More than a few legal experts agreed.
Among other opponents of the court, Jasper cited Dr. Charles Rice, a professor of law at Notre Dame University. Rice called the court "a monster" that essentially "repudiates the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence and cancels the 4th of July."
Especially troubling is that the court acknowledges no boundaries to its supposed authority. "In our system law is supposed to be a rule of reason which, in a sense, controls the state and compels the state to operate under the law," Rice explained. "What are the limits on the ICC? There are none. It's insane!"
In the UN’s emerging “justice” regime, most of the rights and protections Americans take for granted would be thrown out the window. Consider, for example, that the “court” verdicts are decided not by an impartial jury of one’s peers, but by unelected international bureaucrats who often hail from repressive dictatorships.
While few will mourn Taylor’s conviction, critics of the whole UN system warned that the precedent established by the case could be troubling as the global body seeks to expand and consolidate its purported authority. And as the ICC investigates U.S. troops for war crimes in Libya, it remains unclear whether Obama would allow them to be prosecuted by the so-called court.
Photo of Charles Taylor: AP Images