Conviction of Liberia war criminal Charles Taylor has global impact

By Arthur I. Cyr

“Without justice, courage is weak,” Ben Franklin wrote, and around the world today dangerous disciples of war are being brought to justice.

At the end of April, former President Charles Taylor of Liberia was formally convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by an international Special Court established in The Hague, Holland. Taylor aided Sierra Leone rebel forces in carrying out bloody, brutal atrocities. Liberia under Taylor was rightly regarded as having a ruling regime that was corrupt and dangerous, both domestically and toward other countries. Liberia’s current Pres. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf earlier spent more than a year in prison during the era of dictatorship, and Taylor once threatened to kill her. Her nickname “The Iron Lady” is inspired by her legendary determination and courage. Around the world, other war criminals are slowly but steadily being brought to justice through due process. Last November, Viktor Bout was convicted by a New York jury for trying to sell arms to the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in order to kill Americans. His nickname is “The Merchant of Death.” Bout was seized in Thailand in a sting operation orchestrated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The Thai government initially vetoed extradition, in response to strong pressures from Russian interests. The turnabout reflected very intense continuous effort by the United States government. Former Soviet army officer Bout became rich and feared dealing in weapons and drugs on a vast scale. The book “Merchant of Death” documents his extraordinary career. Authors Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun provide details regarding a global trail marked in blood. Wholesale death literally was his occupation. Bout’s arrest in a luxury hotel was a victory for basic morality and decency as well as law enforcement.