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US Terms Charles Taylor Conviction As 'Justice To Victims, Critical Milestone'

The United States has said that the conviction of Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone represents an important step towards ensuring a measure of justice for thousands of victims and a critical milestone on a path to a more stable and peaceful region.

"Moreover, it sends a clear message to all perpetrators of atrocities, including Heads of State: you can and will be held accountable," U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice said on Thursday.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama had announced new initiatives that would strengthen the will and capacity of the United States and international organizations to prevent and respond to mass slaughter. He had pledged to deny impunity for perpetrators of mass atrocities and to support others who do the same.

"We cannot bring back those who fell victim to depravity and murder in Sierra Leone more than a decade ago. But we can remember them, and we can rededicate ourselves to a world that consistently embraces its responsibility to protect our populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, Rice said in a statement.

She said the successful completion of the Special Court's mandate- to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility for the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone—remained a top priority of the United States.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone on Thursday convicted Taylor, a former President of Liberia, of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland termed the conviction as "an important step toward delivering justice and accountability for victims, restoring peace and stability in the country and the region, and completing the Special Court for Sierra Leone's mandate to prosecute those persons who bear the greatest responsibility for the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone."

The Taylor prosecution at the Special Court delivers a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities, including those in the highest positions of power, that they will be held accountable, she said in a statement.

The trial of Taylor is of enormous historical and legal significance as it is the first of a powerful head of state to be brought to judgment before an international tribunal on charges of mass atrocities and serious violations of international humanitarian law. Over 90 witnesses testified during the trial, bringing to light the range of crimes committed during the war in Sierra Leone, and affirming the importance of justice for the victims. The United States has been a strong supporter and the leading donor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone since its inception.

Nuland insisted that the successful completion of the Special Court's work remains a top U.S. government priority.

In order to help overcome the financial crisis the Special Court faced, the U.S. government in 2010 November released a $4.5-million grant to Sierra Leone for the continuation of the war crimes trial of Taylor.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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