For far too long, dictators and warlords who have inflicted extensive atrocities on the African people have gone unpunished. This is true when one looks at the scale of crimes against humanity committed across the continent in the recent past in places such as Sudan, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
But this record of impunity is changing, thanks to the long arm of international justice. Increasingly, Africans suspected of committing crimes against humanity are under investigation by the international criminal court and a few have already been charged and are awaiting trial. International intervention has far-reaching implications on the continent, especially regarding governance and reform of judicial systems.
On Thursday Charles Taylor, warlord turned president of Liberia, was convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes by the Sierra Leone special court in The Hague. The court was established in 2002 to try those who bore the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity during the prolonged conflict in Sierra Leone. Taylor was convicted in connection with offences including murder, rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers. It was alleged that Taylor was responsible for these crimes through his support of rebels fighting in Sierra Leone. The prosecutor alleged that Taylor was personally responsible for these crimes because he was involved in the planning, instigating and commissioning but the court found him not guilty of direct personal responsibility for the atrocities carried out by rebels.