Sierra Leoneans say Taylor did not apologise 'enough'By KEMO CHAM in Freetown | Wednesday, May 16 2012 at 19:14
Reaction was generally muted in Sierra Leone to former Liberian president Charles Taylor's testimony early Wednesday at his sentencing hearing in The Hague.
The day marked the first time the convicted war criminal spoke since the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone delivered its verdict last month.
The whole trial took six years.
Taylor was convicted on all 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which included aiding and abetting the atrocities of Sierra Leone’s feared Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.
The prosecution is seeking an 80 year jail term, but the defence has since described that as “unjustifiable”.
Wednesday’s hearing was meant for both sides to try and convince the trial chamber on their positions, and Taylor was expected to seek leniency on the part of the judges.
However, some Sierra Leoneans were disappointed that the former Liberian president did not apologise enough, thereby refusing to take full responsibility for his crimes during the country’s civil war.
“It was a missed opportunity,” said Ibrahim Tommy, Executive Director for the Freetown based Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL).
Mr Tommy said the former warlord only replayed the argument put forward by his defence team bordering around allegations of Western conspiracies.
'Too little, too late'
In his address, which was streamed live to Sierra Leoneans who packed the Freetown premises of the Special Court, the former Liberian leader expressed regret over the consequences of the unrest in the region, which occurred between the late 80s and early 2000s.
He cited his age and family connections as mitigating factors for the consideration of the judges in pronouncing sentence on May 30.
Sierra Leoneans who watched Taylor’s speech agreed that he fell short of seeking forgiveness from Sierra Leoneans.
According to one Murtala Mohamed Kamara, there may have been some sense of remorse in his statement, but it was “too little, too late.”
Mr Kamara said Taylor spent the whole of his trial period denying responsibility, but that now that he’d been found guilty, it was insufficient to only express regret.
Mr Mohamed Koroma, a 25-year-old one-legged amputee who lost almost half his family in the civil war, said “my family’s souls will not rest until Taylor is put in prison.”
Elsewhere on the streets of Freetown there was surprisingly little interest on the hearing, despite a massive campaign to draw attention to Wednesday’s event.
Lead prosecutor Brenda Hollis was in Sierra Leone last week to meet with communities affected by the 11-year civil war. She toured five provinces discussing with victims and commending their “resilience,” while at the same time updating them about the day of sentencing.
As Sierra Leone awaits this much anticipated day, those like Mr Tommy credit the defence for putting up a tough fight, yet are also critical of the lengthy period of the trial.
He would have loved the trial to take place in Sierra Leone which he felt would have given the people “first hand justice”.
And like many others, he does not see the conviction as something which cancels out the great suffering people went through. “What matters,” he said, “is that he [Taylor] had his day in court.”
- Why Obama is visiting Tanzania
- Another politician for the Kenya Cabinet
- Kisumu, where some folks are eating well, while others are going hungry
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Achebe’s body arrives home
- Ethiopia's anti-female cut crusader honoured
- Eritrea's Afeworki: reviled and revered ex-rebel
- After Berlin Man, two reported cured of HIV in Kenya
Beyond the ballot