Leahy: Taylor Conviction Shows That The World Can Hunt Down War Criminals And Bring Them To Justice

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, April 26) -- A UN-backed tribunal Thursday convicted former Liberian president Charles Taylor of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity – the first time a head of state has been convicted by an international court since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg.  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) worked closely with successive prosecutors at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in making today’s breakthrough possible.  Leahy, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, wrote U.S. laws to withhold aid to any government that harbored Taylor, to increase the reward for Taylor’s capture, and to provide crucial funding for the court, even when it was not requested by an earlier administration.  Leahy has long led as well in seeking justice for war criminals and in securing resources to help their victims.  The court found that Taylor also personally profited from his crimes, receiving “blood diamonds” during the conflicts involving Liberia and Sierra Leone.  Leahy heralded the roles of former Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio), joined by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and others, who led efforts in Congress to stigmatize the role of that illicit diamond trade, which paved the way for joint efforts by governments, industry and civil society to stem the role of diamonds in conflict zones.  Leahy’s comments follow:

Leahy said, "The conviction of Charles Taylor sends a clear message that when crimes against humanity occur, there is no immunity from justice at the top. With this verdict the Special Court, which the Congress consistently supported on a bipartisan basis, has significantly advanced the cause of justice to solidify gains toward lasting peace in West Africa.  This is a lesson that we can and should apply going forward, from bringing Joseph Kony to justice, and beyond.  War crimes must not be tolerated.”

David Taylor, a former prosecutor with the special tribunal, said, "Senator Leahy was one of the leaders in the Senate who brought justice to the people of West Africa.  The clear clarion bell of justice rings out around the world putting tyrants on notice that they cannot kill their own citizens or others.  Senator Leahy's clear vision and leadership allowed us to bring that justice."

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