Liberia’s Charles Taylor Facing Judgment In War Crimes Case

A verdict is being handed down this hour against former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly arming fighters in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for “blood diamonds.”

During a brutal war that ended 10 years ago, about 50,000 people died in Sierra Leone.

Taylor, who faces 11 charges, has been on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. “The historic verdicts at the Special Court for Sierra Leone,” says The Associated Press, “will mark the first time an international tribunal has reached judgment in the trial of a former head of state since judges in Nuremberg convicted Karl Doenitz, a naval officer who briefly led Germany after Adolf Hitler’s suicide.”

As the AP adds:

“Prosecutors cast Taylor, 64, as a ruthless leader who as president of neighboring Liberia funneled weapons, ammunition and other equipment to Sierra Leone rebels in return for diamonds mined by slave laborers in Sierra Leone.

“The rebels from the Revolutionary United Front and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, groups notorious for hacking off limbs, noses and lips of their enemies. Most of their surviving leaders already have been convicted and imprisoned by the court.

“In seven months on the witness stand testifying in his own defense, Taylor portrayed himself as a statesman and regional peacemaker.”

We will update this post with the news as soon as it comes in. Also:

— NPR’s Eric Westervelt is due to discuss the case on Morning Edition.

— The BBC is live blogging and streaming video from the court here.

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