Short Cuts: As Charles Taylor goes to court – who will be next?

sierra leone
A reminder of Sierra Leone’s dark past (via Flickr)

On Monday, Charles Taylor’s trial for crimes against humanity will get on its way in The Hague. The alleged crimes committed by troops Mr Taylor is said to have been responsible for cover murdering and mutilating civilians, including cutting off their limbs, using women and girls as sex slaves, abducting adults and children, and forcing them to perform forced labor or become fighters during Sierra Leone’s conflict.

The trial is not to be held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where the crimes occurred as Mr Taylor still holds a large influence in this region of Africa and a verdict against him could lead to destabilization. Mr Taylor had lived in exile in Nigeria, but was sent to prison under international pressure. As Lybia’s Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, his former mentor said: “This means that every head of state could meet a similar fate.”
Likely candidates for this could be Hissene Habre, former president of Chad, who is currently under house arrest in Senegal or Mengistu Haile Mariam, former communist head of Ethiopia, currently residing in Zimbabwe (Mr Mariam was – in absence – actually convicted by Ethiopian judges to a lifelong sentence).

In the long run, Ruanda’s president Paul Kagame could also be a candidate for his involvement in the Second Congo War which included lead to the death of 3.8 million people. A French investigation team also accuses Mr Kagame of being responsible for the assassination of then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994 – the act that led to the Rwandan Genocide, which left between 500,000 and 1 million people dead in only around 100 days.

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