International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Implications of the Charles Taylor Verdict

As you may have already heard, after nearly five years the Special Court for Sierra Leone has finally reached a verdict in the Charles Taylor case and has found the former Liberian president guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.  Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg Trials, and many view this to be an historic decision.  The hope for trials like this is that a conviction will send a message to current and future heads of state that they will be held accountable for their actions, and in turn deter future atrocities.  Considering that, until now,  it has been nearly 70 years since a head of state has been convicted by an international court, do you think we will being to see much more of this in the future?  Perhaps we are now witnessing a renaissance of accountability; those who have always seen themselves as untouchable are finally being shown that they in fact are not.  What do you guys think?  Will this verdict really send a strong message to other sitting heads of state, and hopefully deter future atrocities?

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3 responses to “Implications of the Charles Taylor Verdict

  1. inesventura4 April 26, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I think that the Taylor case alone will not deter heads of state from committing atrocities in the future. It is obviously good for this to happen, I am not arguing with that. However, just one conviction will not do much. However, the ICC and other international courts such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone are now finalizing court proceedings for many accused of committing crimes against humanity. A higher number of convictions and more arrests I think will help deter some heads of state from committing atrocities. In my opinion, it’s all about the number. If one person is arrested and convicted he can just be seen as the “unlucky” one whereas if many are arrested and convicted it will show that the international community is doing something to crack down on these crimes. In that case heads of state will not see the arrested and convicted as “unlucky” but as just what happens after being caught.

  2. brianumass April 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

    The conviction furthers an interesting precedent set by the court, that heads of state can be held accountable by the international community and that they can be tried and found guilty for their crimes. The precedent set by the court by indicting a head of state was a huge statement to the international community and in a sense this conviction had to follow that precedent. Certainly this does not hurt deterrence, but it is very difficult to qualify as a specific cause of deterrence. Will the possible indictment and conviction of future heads of states receive backlash from the state and regional actors (ie. the negativity toward the ICC by the AU)? And, does this change in understood scope of power affect the cooperation state parties will have with the court, something that is essential for the court to function efficiently?

  3. rmalesky April 27, 2012 at 11:56 am

    This is a huge precedent for the Court to set. As we’ve seen in past lectures states are very resistant to offering up former heads of states and I think when the Court sets a precedent like this, it sends a very important message to current leaders in volatile states. I do think this helps to encourage deterrence as heads of state may not feel that if they commit crimes, they’ll be kept in a safe-haven. The prior heads of state to have crimes brought against them to face include Milosevic, Gadhafi, and al-Bashir. Both Milosevic and Gadhafi died and al-Bashier is incredibly defiant to the international claims he’s a committer of genocide. I think, to answer the question brought by brianumass on whether or not we’ll see backlash against this, is no. The ICC runs huge political risks by indicting heads of state however where we now have a legitimate conviction, of which he was not found guilty on all charges and it did seem to be an overall fair trial, I believe this could be the starting step for the ICC and International bodies of law to really set the bar in holding those most responsible accountable, even if they are a head of state.

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