Charles Taylor's conviction and sentencing...a measure of justice and a stern warning to tyrants everywhere.
- Last Updated on 01 June 2012
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In West Africa where the scars inflicted by Former Liberian Strongman and President, Charles Taylor's crimes are yet to heal, his sentencing to 50 years in Prison by the Hague ( International Criminal Court) is welcomed as a step towards securing justice and some closure for his victims. Taylor's sentence not only reflects the severity of Taylor's crimes but sends a clear message that individuals who carry out, aid and abet war crimes can no longer do so with impunity. The trial chamber found that Taylor instigated a war of terror including, murder, rape and mutilation, in the process introducing a new terror lexicon through coining the verbs 'short-sleeve and "long sleeve" for severance at the elbow and wrist respectively which are some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.
In a similar case, the United Nations war crimes tribunal for Rwanda sentenced Former Minister Callixte Nzabonimana to life in prison on Thursday after he was found guilty of playing a key role in his country's 1994 genocide which saw ethnic Hutu militia and soldiers butchering 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in the East African country in just 100 days between April and June 1994.
Such situations of human rights violations are not unique to the stated countries only. In Zimbabwe justice is yet to be done as no one, has to date, answered for the more than 20 000 people in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions who were massacred between 1983 and 1987, allegedly by the North Korean Trained 5th Brigade. The Head of State and Government, as well as Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, at whose behest, the atrocities are thought to have occurred, Mugabe has never publicly apologised for this despicable episode, let alone stand trial for it. The only time the 86-year-old Zimbabwean leader came near to acknowledging his culpability in the massacres was when he referred to the period as "a moment of madness" in 1999. Many of Mugabe's cronies, who were at the helm of the Fifth Brigade, and led Intelligence and Military services then, are still roaming free with most rewarded with senior government positions and purview over the army.
The Gukurahundi issue is not a closed chapter and it is not possible to sweep the matter under the carpet before victims get compensation or know the truth about the killings. The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, in view of the above, joins calls for a fresh inquiry into the National healing debate and a more inclusive and victim centred approach which takes into consideration the issue of justice. Those who committed atrocities and other violent acts against innocent citizens must be brought to book so that the issue of national healing is brought to its logical conclusion.
The two cases of Taylor and Nzambonimana demonstrate that those who commit serious crimes will be held to account some day. The cases are a stern warning to those who believe in the retention and conquest of political power through cohesion, murder and politically motivated rapes and mutilation that eventually the long arm of the law will catch up with you. It may not be a Zimbabwean arm, but the development in the land mark North Gauteng hearing on suspected crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe, which demanded the South African Police and Prosecuting authorities to investigate, clearly shows that the external arms of justice are increasing and growing stronger even as those at a local level are shortened or rendered useless. Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials in a clear message to other tyrants that unlike Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi, Charles Taylor and Callixte Nzabonimana lived and will live to tell the tale.
The time that it has taken for Taylor and Nzabonimana to be convicted proves Zimbabwean traditional truths that those presiding over the state are well advised to understand and follow. "Chisi hachieri musi wacharimwa", (a transgression is seldom punished on the day it occurs) and "Mhosva hairovi" (Crimes don't go away).