Malawi President says Taylor’s conviction lesson to Africa leaders

Malawi’s Head of State Joyce Banda has said she discussed in passing with former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s conviction by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity when she recently met her Liberian counterpart, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia.

“We talked about the issues surrounding his arrest and subsequent conviction. It is encouraging that Africans have resolved that they would not allow their leaders to abuse them anymore. A case in point is what has recently happened in Mali,” President Banda told journalists in Lilongwe recently, adding that time has come when African leaders can no longer amputate arms and limbs of the very people that put them to power.

She said leaders derive power to rule from the people and that they therefore ought to serve and respect the people and not victimize them anyhow.

Another African leader, Sudanese President Hassan Omar Al Bashir has also been indicted by the ICC on similar charges. President Banda has since indicated that the Sudanese President is not welcome in Malawi when the country hosts the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Summit in Lilongwe in July, 2012.

President Banda with her Liberian counterpart Sirleaf Johnstone

Taylor, who is 64, was found guilty last month at the special court for Sierra Leone in The Hague of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity by supporting rebels in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002 in return for “blood diamonds.”

Sentencing for the 11 counts of which Taylor was found guilty – including murder, rape, sexual slavery, enforced amputations and pillage – is scheduled for 30 May.

Taylor’s conviction, the first of a former head of state since the aftermath of World War II, is seen as a landmark in international war crimes law.

During seven months of testimony in his own defense, Taylor insisted he was an innocent victim of neocolonialism and a political process aimed at preventing him from returning to power in Liberia.

His defence, led by Courtenay Griffiths QC, has signalled it will appeal against Taylor’s conviction after he has been sentenced.

The Hague court cannot impose the death penalty or a life sentence, so an 80-year sentence, Griffiths maintained, was “manifestly excessive” and “outlandish”.


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