Find Charles Taylor guilty, asks war crimes prosecutor

11th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor directed Sierra Leone rebels who maimed and murdered civilians, prosecutors said Friday, asking judges to convict him on the last day of his war crimes trial.

"We ask you to enter convictions on all of the counts of the indictment," prosecutor Brenda Hollis said, ending the prosecution's final presentation in the trial which started more than three years ago before the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

"The evidence in this case... proves this accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt on each and every count of this indictment," she said at the end of the first trial of an African head of state before an international tribunal.

"He was at the very centre of the web of the crimes in Sierra Leone. He was the one who had control over the leaders of these groups perpetuating such horrific crimes."

Taylor is on trial on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly having armed rebels of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in exchange for illegally mined so-called "blood diamonds".

"He controlled the RUF", co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian told the judges.

"Charles Taylor, as all in the RUF knew, was the sponsor of that organisation. He was directing the RUF not only militarily but also politically."

Koumjian said Taylor was "an intelligent man and can be very charismatic".

"Intelligent and charismatic people can fool some of the people some of the time but they can't fool all of the people all of the time. He is counting on the fact that he can fool you, and I don't think that he can."

The court has previously heard that Taylor fuelled war in West Africa out of greed and a lust for power.

The Sierra Leone civil war claimed some 120,000 lives in the 10 years to 2001, with RUF rebels, described by the prosecution as Taylor's "surrogate army", mutilating thousands of civilians by hacking off their limbs.

Judges trying Taylor have heard gruesome testimony from victims of the conflict, including a witness who said he pleaded with RUF rebels to cut off his remaining hand so they would spare his toddler son.

Others said Taylor's fighters strung human intestines across roads, removed foetuses from the wombs of women and practiced cannibalism.

In exchange for his support, prosecutors claim, Taylor received "mayonnaise jars" of illegally mined so-called blood diamonds from the RUF, a handful of which he presented to supermodel Naomi Campbell at a charity dinner hosted by South Africa's then-president Nelson Mandela in 1997.

One witness said he was present when the Liberian leader ate human liver.

"Lies," 62-year-old Taylor told the court in July 2009 of the charges of murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers, enslavement and pillaging.

"This whole case is a case of deceit, deception, lies," he said. "I am not guilty of all of these charges, not even a minute part of the charges."

Taylor, who has previously boycotted sessions of the trial, was in court on Friday.

Dressed in a dark grey suit, crisp white shirt and gold cufflinks, he listened attentively from the dock, making occasional notes.

© 2011 AFP

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