Charles Taylor, the former rebel leader and head-of-state in the West African country of Liberia, was convicted on April 26 by a Special Tribunal on Sierra Leone. The court was set up ostensibly by the United Nations in conjunction with the government of Sierra Leone.
Taylor’s charges stemmed from the civil war that erupted in Sierra Leone during the early 1990s. He was accused of arming and coordinating the actions of the so-called Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone which was held responsible for atrocities committed against the civilian population in a bid to seize power from successive civilian and military governments.
Taylor had maintained that he was not responsible for the crimes carried out by the RUF in Sierra Leone. Nonetheless, testimony during the trial in the Netherlands claimed that he had financed the war through the illegal trafficking of diamonds.
Despite these allegations of illegal diamond trafficking that even brought about the testimony of British supermodel Naomi Campbell in 2010, the actual controllers of the international diamond industry were never mentioned. The diamond industry is largely controlled by the Hatton firm which is a subsidiary of the DeBeers Central Selling Organization formed in South Africa as well as the Antwerp Company that is based in Belgium.
The former Liberian leader had led his own rebel campaign against a military regime in Liberia beginning in 1989. Sgt. Samuel Doe, who overthrew the government of President William Tolbert in April 1980, had been initially supported by Taylor and many other Liberians.
In subsequent years Taylor was charged with embezzlement by the Doe government and fled the country to the United States where he had earlier obtained a degree from Bentley College. Taylor, who was jailed in the U.S., reportedly escaped from prison and traveled to Libya where he received military training and funding from the-then [Jamahiri] government of Col. Muammar Gaddafi.
Taylor formed the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and began to launch military attacks against the Doe government. In 1997, after years of protracted war, Taylor was elected as the 22nd president of the Republic of Liberia.
Liberia was formed during the 1820s as a purported haven for former African slaves from the U.S. In 1847 the country became a republic but continued to remain under the political and economic control of the U.S. government and later Firestone Rubber Company.
By 2003, Taylor was under tremendous pressure to resign by at least two other guerrilla armies that were fighting his regime. By this time he had fallen out of favor with the U.S. and other western-backed leaders in Liberia and West Africa.
Taylor was brought up on charges by the Special Tribunal on Sierra Leone and agreed to resign in exchange for asylum in Nigeria. A contingent of thousands of troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that were backed by the U.S. entered Liberia to prepare for a political transition. An election held later resulted in the ascendancy of the current President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a trained economist and a former supporter of Taylor.
By 2006, Taylor was again wanted for war crimes in Sierra Leone and extradited back to Liberia where he was immediately arrested and sent to the Netherlands to await trial. His conviction by the Special Tribunal on Sierra Leone represents the first case where a sitting political leader was removed and put on trial for supposed violations of both international and domestic law.
Political Hypocrisy as International Law
There is no doubt that horrendous crimes were committed by forces associated with Taylor in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nonetheless, in recent years The Hague has become a center for the indictment and persecution of African leaders for crimes that dwarf those committed by leaders and business entities within the imperialist states.
Former Yugoslavian President Slobadan Milosevic was also indicted, deposed and arrested on charges related to the U.S.-NATO policies that resulted in the break-up of the last socialist state in Europe during the 1990s. In addition to the Special Tribunals in the case of Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, there is also the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has played a role in destabilizing both Sudan and Libya through indictments and threatened kidnappings.
Yet the crimes carried out by the U.S., Britain, France and other allied states against the peoples of Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Colombia, Somalia, Libya and Sudan are not even mentioned by the putative international legal bodies in The Hague. The U.S. and British governments concocted false allegations against the Iraq government in 2002-2003 that lead to an eight year war resulting in the deaths of over one million people and the displacement of millions of others.
In Afghanistan, the war is in its eleventh year with no end in sight. Untold numbers of Afghans have been killed and millions have been displaced and traumatized.
The North African state of Libya was attacked during 2011 through the engineering of a rebel insurgency that was financed and planned by the U.S., France and Britain. When this did not succeed, the Pentagon and NATO imposed an arms embargo and naval blockade against the Gaddafi [Jamahiriya] government.
Later between March 19 and October 20, the Pentagon and NATO carried out 26,000 sorties and nearly 10,000 airstrikes against Libya killing thousands and displacing two million. Over $160 billion in Libyan foreign assets were seized while a puppet regime was installed that routinely violates the human rights of Libyans and foreign nationals.
No one has been held accountable for these war crimes. These crimes that were committed under successive U.S. regimes are coupled with economic crimes involving the wholesale theft of trillions of dollars in home equity, wages, municipal tax dollars and pension funds.
Consequently, working people and the nationally oppressed must inherently be suspicious of the western platitudes related to international norms and law. International law has become a tool of western imperialism through the United Nations as well as other institutions such as Special Tribunals and the ICC.