Updated:
Original:
Year
2012
Month Day
April 26

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor found guilty of war crimes

On April 26, 2012, former Liberian president Charles Taylor is found guilty of abetting horrific war crimes, including rape and mutilation in Sierra Leone.

His conviction was the first for war crimes by a former head of state in an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War II. Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting a notoriously brutal rebel force who murdered, raped, forced sexual slavery, built a child army and mined diamonds to pay for guns.

Taylor’s road to war crimes started after he escaped a U.S. jail, where he was waiting to be extradited for embezzlement. Taylor made it from his jail cell to Libya, where he started the militia group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). With his newly formed militia, he overthrew the regime of Samuel Doe in 1989. The upheaval plunged the country into a 14-year bloody civil war. By the end, 200,000 were killed in the fighting and more than half of the population became refugees.

After a peace deal was made to end the civil war, Taylor was elected Liberia’s president until he was forced out in 2003. During his reign, Taylor is said to have meddled in another civil war raging in Sierra Leone. Witnesses said he sold guns to, and arranged attacks for, rebel groups in exchange for blood diamonds. However, Taylor wasn’t just aiding a rebellion. He was also perpetuating horrific brutality. Over 50,000 were killed, and thousands more were mutilated in the more than a decade long civil war. The rebels were known to amputate limbs, rape women, enslave survivors of their attacks and force boys into child armies.

Taylor denied the accusations, but once put on trial in 2006, 115 witnesses, including victims of rape and mutilation, testified against him. Radio and telephone intercepts used in the case also revealed direct communication between him and the rebels.

Taylor will spend his 50-year sentence in a prison in the United Kingdom.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Polio vaccine trials begin

On this day in 1954, the Salk polio vaccine field trials, involving 1.8 million children, begin at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. Children in the United States, Canada and Finland participated in the trials, which used for the first time the ...read more

President Reagan visits China

On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan arrives in China for a diplomatic meeting with Chinese President Li Xiannian. The trip marked the third time a U.S. president had traveled to China since President Richard Nixon’s historic trip in 1972 (Gerald Ford visited in 1975). ...read more

Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth dies

John Wilkes Booth is killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm 12 days after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Twenty-six-year-old Booth was one of the most famous actors in the country when he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford’s Theater in ...read more

Allies sign Treaty of London

On April 26, 1915, after receiving the promise of significant territorial gains, Italy signs the Treaty of London, committing itself to enter World War I on the side of the Allies. With the threat of imminent war looming in July 1914, the Italian army under Chief of Staff Luigi ...read more