Friday, April 27, 2012 at 5:44 AM
Yesterday the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor on 11 counts of aiding and abetting all manner of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape. This conviction practically guarantees that he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
As a warlord, Taylor commanded rebel forces who raped, tortured, and killed indiscriminately on their march to power. And as president of Liberia, he aided, abetted, and traded (guns for diamonds) with warlords in Sierra Leone whose rebel forces did there what his did in Liberia…
So here’s to the fate that awaits Charles Taylor (think Slobodan, not Saddam). And let’s hope that his capture puts all despots (like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) on notice that their day of reckoning is drawing nigh. Because Taylor today, Kony tomorrow? Who knows for whom the bell will toll in due course?
(“Good News: Charles Taylor captured,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 31, 2006)
This second paragraph on the precedent Taylor’s capture would/should set is particularly noteworthy. Because here is how the BBC parroted this notion yesterday in its report on Taylor’s conviction:
The indictment of Charles Taylor took war crimes jurisprudence to a new level, establishing the principle that a serving head of state was not immune from prosecution.
The later indictments by the International Criminal Court of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast are a testament to the significance of the Taylor precedent.
I take exception, however, to reports (like the BBC’s) that suggest this precedent only applies to African despots. Indeed, you’ll note that I cited the precedent set by the prosecution of the European despot Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia when I wrote about the good news of Taylor’s indictment and capture. (The only reason Taylor now has the unenviable distinction of being the first head of state to be convicted by an international war crimes tribunal is that Milosevic died during his trial before the inevitable guilty verdict could be rendered.)
Frankly, it seems an egregious oversight that the BBC did not even mention Vladimir Putin of Russia. After all, this news organization has been in the vanguard of those reporting on how Putin is aiding and abetting all manner of crimes against humanity in Syria today just as Taylor did in Sierra Leone:
On 10 January, a Russian cargo ship loaded with containers from the country’s main arms exporter made an unscheduled stop at the port of Limassol in Cyprus…
A well-placed source has confirmed to the BBC that it was carrying tons of ammunition destined for the Syrian security forces which stand accused of committing atrocities against their own people, killing and torturing thousands since the uprising began last year.
(BBC, January 30, 2012)
Which clearly begs the question. If Taylor of Liberia can be hauled to The Hague and tried for aiding and abetting atrocities that were committed in Sierra Leone, why shouldn’t Putin of Russia face the same fate for aiding and abetting similar atrocities now being committed in Syria?
Of course, the UN has a dubious record of sanctioning the relatively powerless for things the powerful do with impunity. (Consider, for example, the way Obama of the United States has gotten away with violating Pakistan’s sovereignty for years by launching drone missiles into its territory at will, killing suspected terrorists and innocent civilians alike.) This is why I have no doubt that Putin will get a pass; whereas it’s only a matter of time before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ends up in The Hague (or dead).
Charles Taylor captured