Margot Wallström, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, applauded the guilty verdict brought down on Charles Taylor for crimes against humanity on 26 April.
An international war crimes tribunal at the Hague found the former Liberian president guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in funding rebels in Sierra Leone. Three of the charges concerned sexual violence against hundreds of civilian women during the conflict.
Wallström praised the condemnation of these crimes against women, which only decades ago would have been kept silent and left untried.
“The trial of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, represents a firm commitment by the international community that impunity is not an option for this type of crime,” she said in a press statement. “The successful prosecution of a former President signals that no leader – however powerful – is above the law; and that no woman or girl is below it.”
The rebels that Taylor is charged with aiding and abetting raped hundreds of women and girls during the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s and abducted an unknown number as sex slaves.
“The Taylor trial may appear to concern just one perpetrator, but it gives voice to all survivors,” Wallström said. “This case signals to the women, children and communities affected by sexual violence that the world is watching.”
Taylor was in power in Liberia until 2003, when international pressure led him to exile in Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 and has been on trial since 2007. The case was the first heard by an international war crimes court against an African leader.
“This sets a powerful precedent for all commanders and combatants,”Wallström said.