A verdict in the case of former Liberian President Charles Taylor will be delivered this week in The Hague, but streamed live to the Special Court compound in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where local and international journalists, diplomats, members of government and the judiciary, victims, civil society members, and members of the public are expected to watch the proceedings.
The former Liberian president is charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Taylor is the first head of state to face judgment before an international tribunal.
Between 1991 and 2002, at least 50,000 people were killed across Sierra Leone by militia from Liberia. Thousands more were mutilated and 2 million displaced from their homes – close to half the population.
Former President Tejan of Sierra Leone sought a war crimes tribunal when peace finally came to the country. Thirteen people, including Taylor, were indicted. Nine have been convicted and jailed. Three died before standing trial. One is missing. That leaves Taylor, who was detained in 2006 and shipped to The Hague. Many lower-ranking commanders were left out of the prosecution.
"The mandate was to try those only who bore the greatest responsibility," said Peter Anderson of the Special Court in Freetown. "That means that a lot of the mid-level commanders, the people who noticeably had blood on their hands, escaped from the court. No tribunal can go after everybody. At some point, the country has to move on."