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March 27, 2016

Former Bosnian-Serb Leader, Radovan Karadžić, found guilty of Srebrenica Massacre

Former Bosnian-Serb Leader, Radovan Karadžić, found guilty of Srebrenica Massacre

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

On Thursday, the 24th of March, 2016, former high-ranking Bosnian-Serb Radovan Karadžić was found guilty on 10 charges laid against him by the United Nation’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague, the Netherlands. Mr Karadžić was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his alleged committal of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war during the 3-year conflict which claimed the lives of almost 100,000 people.

Mr Karadžić, who was the first president of the newly-formed Republika Srpska (a Serbian-aligned separatist section of north-eastern Bosnia & Herzegovina), was found guilty of orchestrating the shelling of civilian centres during the 3-year siege of Sarajevo. The tribunal also found him guilty of involvement in the organisation of the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre, which oversaw the systematic separation and execution of over 7,500 Muslim men and boys over a period of 3 days. It aimed to “terrorise and demoralise the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat population”, as Karadžić had planned a campaign of “ethnic cleansing’ in which Serbian-affiliated militias and paramilitary groups targeted non-Serbian civilians living within the territory of the breakaway Bosnian-Serb republic, Republika Srpska.

The sentence was handed down after a lengthy 8-year trial in which Mr Karadžić represented himself. Mr Karadžić previously claimed in a written statement that he bore the “moral responsibility” for the actions of Bosnian-Serb soldiers during the conflict as he was the political leader of the breakaway state, yet still claimed innocence of the charges laid against him. The decision caused civilian unrest in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, as Serbian far-right nationalists protested the UN’s verdict.


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May 30, 2012

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for war crimes

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for war crimes

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, has been today handed a 50-year sentence for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone. The court previously held he financed a war which left an estimated 50,000 dead.

A school destroyed by RUF rebels.
Image: Laura Lartigue.

Taylor, 64, is considered likely to remain incarcerated for life if the sentence stands, but his legal team has vowed to appeal. The prosecution sought an 80-year sentence. Taylor’s is the first conviction of a head of state by an international tribunal since the fallout from World War Two, when the Nuremberg trials were underway.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is operating from the Netherlands to avoid unrest if Taylor were tried in Africa, spent more than a year deliberating before convicting Taylor last month. Acquitted of ordering crimes or of acting in a joint enterprise to conduct them, he was nonetheless convicted of aiding and abetting the offences. There were 94 prosecution witnesses and 21 for the defence.

The allegations date to civil war in Sierra Leone, which ran from 1991 to 2002. Taylor, who had been a warlord since the ’80s, backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was elected Liberian president in 1997 after a different civil war concluded.

Six years later he was ousted when an arrest warrant was issued and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 whilst again trying to flee and went on trial later that year. Taylor, who had been facing a rebellion against him since 1999 in Liberia, received training from late Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Testimony included claims that Taylor-backed fighters adorned roads with human intestines and ate human flesh. One claimed to have seen Taylor himself eat human liver, something Taylor denied. One described asking RUF rebels to sever his only hand in exchange for his young son’s life.

Further allegations said teenage children were involved in the fighting and that Taylor sold illegally mined diamonds to finance arms purchases for the RUF. Western celebrities Naomi Campbell, a model, and Mia Farrow, an actress, described an incident at a charity dinner held by Nelson Mandella, then South Africa’s head, in 1997. Campbell and Farrow said Taylor gifted Campbell a number of diamonds. Taylor is claimed to have ordered seizure of Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits by RUF soldiers.

It was claimed in court that child soldiers were used in conflict, as diamond mine guards, and to carry out amputations. Allegations of forced amputation were made. Taylor was convicted in late April of aiding and abetting forcing amputation, as well as rape, murder, child soldier recruitment, sexual slavery, and pillaging.

The court’s panel of judges, presided over by Judge Richard Lussick, heard a 30-minute address by Taylor at an earlier sentencing hearing. “I express my sadness and sympathy for crimes suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone,” said Taylor, adding he acted “with honour” and as a peacemaker, asking for “reconciliation, not retribution” in sentencing. Taylor also gave evidence at his own trial, spending seven months of testimony saying he strove for peace in the region.

Lussick noted the panel felt 80 years to be excessive given that Taylor was cleared of directly carrying out offences. However, the court found other factors aggravated the case: In particular, he was a head of state. “Leadership must be carried out by example by the prosecution of crimes, not the commission of crimes,” Lussick said in court. “The special status of Mr. Taylor as a head of state puts him in a different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing,” the judge said, with the convict “in a class of his own”.

“[His] positions both as president of Liberia and within the west African regional bodies distinguish him from any other individual that has appeared before this court,” Prosecutor Brenda Hollis said at a sentencing hearing. “Taylor’s abuse of his authority and influence is especially egregious given that west African leaders repeatedly entrusted him with a role to facilitate peace.” She had claimed “No significant mitigating circumstances exist in this case.”

Lussick also told the court today Taylor stood convicted of “aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history”. “The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of his actions.” These were, the court said, crimes of the “utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality”. The prosecution had claimed Taylor followed no more motivation beyond simple greed and power lust. Lussick said today the judges were unanimous in imposing a term of 50 years.

The defence had called for a sentence that gave Taylor a realistic prospect of eventual release. They also noted he is set to be sent to the United Kingdom to serve sentence. The defendant would be “culturally isolated”, facing a “punishment within a punishment”. At least one war crimes convict has been attacked in prison in the UK, and it is anticipated Taylor will end up in a high-security prison after the UK Foreign Office has promised to uphold an agreement to imprison him there made by ex-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

“The sentence is clearly excessive, clearly disproportionate to his circumstances, his age and his health and does not take into account the fact that he stepped down from office voluntarily,” said counsel for the accused Morris Anya. The prosecution may also appeal the sentencing, and the verdict itself with intent to increase Taylor’s convictions beyond merely aiding and abetting. The defence also intends to appeal the verdict.

The appeals process means Taylor is likely to remain at The Hague for several months, where the court has been holding sessions in nearby Leidschendam. He is the last defendant to face trial before the Special Court, which has previously convicted and sentenced eight other prominent figures in the conflict.



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April 26, 2012

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor convicted in war crimes trial

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor convicted in war crimes trial

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

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Former President of Liberia Charles Taylor was today found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands. Taylor was acquitted of actually ordering the offences or being part of a joint enterprise to conduct them.

A school destroyed by RUF rebels.
Image: Laura Lartigue.

The eleven-count indictment produced a four-year trial that heard allegations of rape, murder, sexual slavery, cannibalism, arms dealing, “blood” diamond trade, and use of child soldiers. Prosecution witnesses totalled 94 whilst the defence had 21 including the accused. Taylor spent his seven months of evidence claiming he was a peacemaker.

The allegations date to civil war in Sierra Leone, which ran from 1991 to 2002. Taylor, who had been a warlord since the ’80s, backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was elected Liberian president in 1997 after a different civil war concluded.

Six years later he was ousted when an arrest warrant was issued and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 whilst again trying to flee. Taylor, who had been facing a rebellion against him since 1999 in Liberia, had received training from Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Testimony included claims that Taylor-backed fighters adorned roads with human intestines and ate human flesh. One claimed to have seen Taylor himself eat human liver, something Taylor denied. One described asking RUF rebels to sever his only hand in exchange for his young son’s life.

Further allegations said teenage children were involved in the fighting and that Taylor sold illegally mined diamonds to finance arms purchases for the RUF. Western celebrities Naomi Campbell, a model, and Mia Farrow, an actress, described an incident at a charity dinner held by Nelson Mandella, then South Africa’s head, in 1997. Campbell and Farrow said Taylor gifted Campbell a number of diamonds. Taylor is claimed to have ordered seizure of Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits by RUF soldiers.

It was claimed in court that child soldiers were used in conflict, as diamond mine guards, and to carry out amputations. Allegations of forced amputation were made.

The court, which has spent a year considering its verdicts, unanimously found Taylor guilty. It ruled Taylor knew at least from 1997 the full extent of RUF activities in Sierra Leone, and that he helped bankroll activities dealing in blood diamonds. A judge said more than a thousand youngsters had ‘RUF’ carved into their skin to prevent escape. From the moment he receives the full judgement Taylor has two weeks in which to file an appeal.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International welcomed the verdict, which is the first conviction of a head of state before an international court since the Nuremburg trials prosecuted Nazi leaders after World War Two. Karl Dönitz was convicted after he took brief control of Germany in the aftermath of Adolf Hitler‘s suicide.

Former President of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic faced trial but died before a judgement was handed down. Laurent Gbagbo, once Presldent of the Ivory Coast, is in custody at The Hague awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court. Taylor joins eight other Special Court convicts, all of whom are from Sierra Leone. He is the first African ruler to appear in The Hague.

The Special Court was formed jointly by Sierra Leone’s present administration and the United Nations.

The Netherlands agreed the process could be held there on the condition Taylor did not serve sentence there if convicted. He is expected to be sent to the UK, where Foreign Office has promised to uphold an agreement to imprison him there made by ex-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.



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December 5, 2011

Gbagbo appears at international court for alleged crimes against humanity

Gbagbo appears at international court for alleged crimes against humanity

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Monday, December 5, 2011

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Laurent Gbagbo in 2007.
Image: Voice of America.

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo today appeared before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to hear charges against him. The ICC has charged him with four counts of crimes against humanity regarding events following last year’s Ivorian presidential election.

Following the election on November 28, Alassane Ouattara was internationally recognized as the winner, but Gbagbo maintained he had won. Subsequent violence killed about 3,000 people. Gbagbo was arrested in April.

Gbagbo is charged as an “indirect co-perpetrator” in “widespread and systematic” crimes “over an extended time period”. He was moved from Ivory Coast to The Hague last week, which his supporters called “political kidnapping”.

Human rights groups have also called for investigation of Ouattara’s supporters. ICC chief prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo said “there is more to come”. UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay noted that “In all of our reports, we made it clear there were violations of human rights on both sides”.

Since the ICC was established in 2002, this is the first time an ex-head of state has been brought before it. All the cases now being heard by the ICC are African, although some non-African preliminary investigations are underway. To date, the ICC has never successfully convicted anyone.



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June 1, 2011

Ratko Mladić said to be too ill to face trial

Ratko Mladić said to be too ill to face trial

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ratko Mladić in 1993
Image: Evstafiev Mikhail.

Ratko Mladić, a former Bosnian Serb general, is allegedly too ill to face trial for war crimes. According to his lawyer, 69-year-old Mladić will not survive to see the start of proceedings.

Concerns for the health of Mladić come despite a Serbian judge having ruled him fit for extradition to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague only last Friday, a ruling which his lawyer seeks to appeal.

“It was impossible to have a coherent conversation with him or to talk of his defence,” said lawyer Milos Saljic, after meeting with Mladić on Sunday.

Cquote1.svg According to doctors, he doesn’t need hospitalisation. Cquote2.svg

—Bruno Vekaric, Serbian deputy war crimes prosecutor

Serbian deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric believes Mladić is using his illness in an attempt to delay his extradition.

“He’s a man who has not taken care of his health for a while, but not to the point that he cannot stand trial,” says Vekaric. “According to doctors, he doesn’t need hospitalisation.”

Chief prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic echoed these sentiments, stating that Mladić was both well enough to make the two-hour flight to the Netherlands and is conscious of the charges against him, despite claims from family members that the former general is not lucid.

Mladić’s son, Darko Mladić, is calling for his father’s health to be reviewed by independent experts. Mladić has reportedly suffered three strokes, the last in 2008, resulting in the partial paralysis of his right side. His family has expressed concerns he will not receive adequate treatment in The Hague.

Mladić is being indicted for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, notably the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war.



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May 28, 2011

Ratko Mladić arrested for war crimes

Ratko Mladić arrested for war crimes – Wikinews, the free news source

Ratko Mladić arrested for war crimes

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

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Ratko Mladić in 1993
Image: Evstafiev Mikhail.

Ratko Mladić, otherwise known as “The Butcher of Bosnia,” has been arrested after being sought for over a decade. The 69-year-old former Serbian general and war crimes suspect was arrested on May 26 by Serbian special police in Lazarevo, Serbia. Mladić was accused of war crimes shortly after the 1992–1995 Bosnian War. He was wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity, including the orchestration of a massacre of over 8000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica.

The arrest has prompted protests from Serbian nationalists, who herald Mladić as a national hero and patriot. However, the international reaction to Mladić’s capture is more positive. French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Serbia’s actions, saying it is another step for Serbia on the path to joining the European Union. Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt gave similar praise, saying that the Serbia’s prospects of joining the EU are “brighter than ever.”

Serbia’s war crimes court ruled that Mladić is fit for trial, despite claims from family and supporters to the contrary. Ratko Mladić’s son Darko claims that his father is too weak to face extradition to The Hague for trial. Mladić could face extradition within a matter of days.



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August 19, 2010

Nelson Mandela charity official resigns over \’blood diamonds\’

Nelson Mandela charity official resigns over ‘blood diamonds’

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) trustee Jeremy Ractliffe has resigned from the charity’s board, twelve days after admitting to the possession of “blood diamonds”.

Earlier this month, supermodel Naomi Campbell testified against former Liberian president Charles Taylor when she claimed she received “very small, dirty looking stones” from two men, allegedly associated with Taylor. Campbell said she gave these diamonds to Ractliffe to “do something good with” in 1997. He gave the diamonds to police the day after Campbell’s testimony. The police confirmed the stones were diamonds.

The board of the Mandela charity said in a statement, “Mr. Ractliffe regrets his omission to inform the chairperson, chief executive officer and the rest of the board of trustees of the NMCF of his receipt of the uncut diamonds until now… [Ractliffe] acknowledges that had he done so, he and the board would have found a better and lawful way to manage the situation.”

Ractliffe took the diamonds from Campbell, fearing she might be prosecuted for removing uncut diamonds from South Africa, illegal without a license.

Ractcliffe said, “Naomi suggested they could be of some benefit to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund — but I told her I would not involve the NMCF in anything that could possibly be illegal… In the end I decided I should just keep them.”

Taylor is on trial in The Hague, The Netherlands for allegedly trading diamonds for weapons to supply the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone. Taylor faces eleven counts for international crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enlistment of children under the age of fifteen, and pillaging.



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August 11, 2010

Mia Farrow, Carole White testify in Charles Taylor\’s war crimes trial

Mia Farrow, Carole White testify in Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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Farrow appeared in a UN-backed court at The Hague to testify in a war crimes trial against Taylor.
Image: hdptcar on Flickr.

Actress Mia Farrow and Carole White have testified in former-Liberian president Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Farrow and White’s testimonies contradict supermodel Naomi Campbell‘s testimony from last week.

White said Campbell was “mildly flirtatious” with Taylor at a dinner in South Africa in 1997. Taylor, she alleged, told Campbell he would send her diamonds. White continued to say Campbell communicated with Taylor and awaited the diamond. Campbell was “very excited” about the diamonds according to White.

“[Taylor’s men] came in and they sat down in the lounge and we sat opposite them… they then took out a quite scruffy paper and they handed it to Miss Campbell and said ‘these are the diamonds.'”

Farrow claimed Campbell told her Taylor received diamonds in the middle of the night. She testified, “[Campbell] said that in the night she had been awakened, some men were knocking at the door, and they had been sent by Charles Taylor, and they had given her a huge diamond.”

Last week in Campbell’s testimony, she did not know who sent her diamonds, but testified her then-agent White told her who probably sent the diamonds. White and Farrow testified Campbell said the diamonds were from Taylor. She claims she gave the diamonds to Jeremy Ractliffe who gave them to police.

Police spokesperson Musa Zondi confirms Ractliffe had uncut diamonds. “Yes, they are real diamonds. We cannot tell whether they are ‘blood diamonds‘ or not. That will be part of the investigation,” Zondi said.

Taylor faces eleven counts for violating international law including, murder, rape, sexual slavery, enlistment of children under the age of fifteen, pillaging, enslavement, and “outrages upon personal dignity.”

Taylor allegedly traded “blood diamonds” for weapons and supplying the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone with weapons during the civil war from 1991 to 2002. This war conscripted child soldiers, an international crime. The prosecutors for the Special Court say Taylor trained the rebels and had them rape, murder, mutilate, and decapitate the civilians of Sierra Leone. Over 100,000 people died in the Sierra Leonean civil war. Taylor plead not guilty to all charges.

Linking the blood diamonds, used to support the RUF, to Taylor is a high priority for the prosecution.



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August 5, 2010

Naomi Campbell testifies against former Liberian president

Naomi Campbell testifies against former Liberian president

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

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Campbell claims being in court was “a big inconvenience.”
Image: Jesse Gross.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell testified for prosecutors on Thursday in a war crimes case against former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Taylor allegedly gave an uncut blood diamond to Campbell in 1997 when they met for dinner in South Africa, according to Professor David Crane of Syracuse University.

Crane told Voice of America, “The testimony itself is important because the prosecution wants to show that Charles Taylor has the mindset or what we call the mens rea to use the blood diamonds that were mined by Sierra Leoneans chained to pits in the Kailahun and Kenema area. And, he was using them for various reasons: to buy guns, to use cash to deposit, and also to buy influence.”

Taylor denies he possessed any uncut diamonds.

Campbell said in her testimony, “When I was sleeping I had a knock on my door. I opened my door and two men were there and gave me a pouch and said, ‘A gift for you.'” She said the men gave her “very small, dirty looking stones.”

She continued, “At breakfast I told Miss [Mia] Farrow and Miss [Carole] White what had happened and one of the two said, well that’s obviously Charles Taylor, and I said, yes I guess it was.”

Campbell was not sure Taylor sent her the blood diamonds and she claimed she assumed it was the accused and continued stating it was unlikely anyone else gave her the gift.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, The Netherlands ruled that no one may sketch, take photographs, or make videos of Campbell, due to her high profile. Photographers were barred from taking photos of Campbell entering or leaving the courthouse, but her testimony was recorded as usual.



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March 31, 2010

Serbia condemns 1995 Srebrenica massacre

Serbia condemns 1995 Srebrenica massacre

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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Srebrenica Potocari Memorial
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Serbia’s parliament has approved a landmark resolution condemning the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops. This tragedy is considered the worst atrocity carried out in Europe since the Second World War and a symbol of the brutality of the 1992–95 Balkan wars.

After thirteen hours of debate, 127 of the 250 Serbia’s parliament lawmakers voted to pass the landmark resolution; only 173 were present. “The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995”, says the resolution. Also, the text apologises to the families of the victims “because not everything possible was done to prevent the tragedy”.

But yesterday, Serbia showed the world how deeply divided it was. Democrats and Socialists, the pro-Western ruling coalition, voted in favor of the resolution because they want to bring Serbia closer to its goal of becoming a member of the European Union. The nationalist opposition, on the other hand, voted against it, saying that war crimes were made against Bosnian Serbs as well. Serb Muslim lawmakers were not satisfied with the text because it doesn’t use the word “genocide”, despite the term’s use by the European Union and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

The former Serb Bosnian leader Radovan Karadžić is currently on trial in the UN court. The general who commanded the Serb soldiers in Srebrenica massacre, Ratko Mladić, is still on the run. Slobodan Milošević, president of Serbia during the Balkan wars, was found dead in his cell four years ago.



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