Lies, rumours and never any mayonnaise, says Mr Taylor
Many of us are familiar with Disraeli’s well-coined phrase, “lies, damned lies and statistics” but I reckon Charles Taylor brought a whole new saying to life as he took to the stand at The Hague yesterday.
In his attempt to defend himself against charges of crimes against humanity including involvement in sexual slavery, mass killings and use of child soldiers during the Sierra Leone civil war, Mr Taylor insisted that all accusations brought against him were lies, misinformation and rumours.
When asked specifically about whether he had received a mayonnaise jar filled with diamonds in exchange for weapons, Mr Taylor declared that this was a ‘diabolical lie’. Whether it was ‘mayonnaise or coffee or whatever jar’, stated Mr Taylor – he emphatically declared that he never received such diamonds from Sierra Leone rebel soldiers. Last night’s Channel 4 News has a great clip of that.
Whether one chooses to accept the testimony which some have described as ‘theatrical’ or not, what cannot be denied is that the charges brought against Mr Taylor are heavy indeed.
He is the first African head of state to stand trial for war crimes and it’s alleged that Mr Taylor backed the Revolutionary United Front, a rebel group that murdered, raped and mutilated tens of thousands in Sierra Leone in the 1990s.
For three years Charles Taylor sought asylum in Nigeria and essentially avoided being brought to justice. Eventually, after international pressure from other countries and human rights organisations including Amnesty, Mr Taylor was surrended to the Special Court in The Hague.
The war in Sierra Leone was bloody and extremely brutal. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were affected it. Amnesty documented the grave human rights abuses at the time and former child soldier Ishamel Beah illustrates the impact in his book ‘a long way gone’.
The crimes levelled against Mr Taylor are particularly serious and whether mayonnaise jars were involved or not, this trial serves as an important footprint in the long path of justice, which is dearly needed to allow for reconstruction and development for the people of Sierra Leone.
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