The PJ Tatler

Liberia awaits verdict in Charles Taylor trial

It’s one of the more forgotten chapters in the Bush presidency now, but in 2003, the United States helped remove thug Charles Taylor from power in Liberia. Taylor was eventually tried for war crimes, specifically, supporting rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for blood diamonds, and other heinous actions.

Taylor was indicted in 2003 while still president of Liberia. He has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of murder, rape, pillaging, and deploying child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

That trial ended Friday, but reaching a verdict may take a while.

The three-year war-crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, once among West Africa’s most powerful leaders, ended Friday with judges likely to take months to reach a verdict on whether he can be tied to murders and amputations in Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.

In their final remarks, prosecutors cautioned the judges against being taken in by Taylor, a man they described as “intelligent and charismatic,” who portrayed himself during the trial as a statesman and peacemaker, rather than a warlord who used a surrogate army to pillage a nation.

President Bush intervened in Liberia on behalf of democracy in 2003, by deploying US Marines and Navy warships to oversee the transition from Taylor to democracy, while US forces were already engaged in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Liberia =/= Libya for a host of reasons, but Bush’s leadership there came at a time when he had a very full plate elsewhere (though, sadly, Bush didn’t host a WH conference on bullying during that time). Today, Liberia has a democratically elected president, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Africa’s first elected female president. Congratulations, and thank you, to Harvard for having her speak at their graduation ceremonies this year.

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