"Today's decision of the Appeals Chamber sends a clear message that political leaders can be held accountable for the recruitment of child soldiers. This judgment confirms that providing arms and supporting armed groups that recruit and use children in hostilities is a war crime" said Richard Clarke, Director of Child Soldiers International.
London, 26 September 2013 - Today, the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) upheld the conviction of former Liberian President, Charles Ghankay Taylor, for a range of crimes under international law, including recruiting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
This judgment, which is now final, establishes the criminal responsibility of a former head of state for the part he took in planning and supporting crimes committed by armed groups active during the armed conflict in Sierra Leone.
With this judgment, the SCSL also confirms that international tribunals have the capacity to bring to justice those responsible for the crimes of recruitment of children or their use in hostilities, including those political leaders who support the commission of these crimes.
Throughout the years, the SCSL and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have proven that prosecuting and convicting those responsible of serious crimes against children is possible. Regretfully, prosecutions at the national level remain almost nonexistent. Child Soldiers International reiterates its call to all states to criminalise the recruitment of children and their use in hostilities in their domestic legislation, in line with their obligations under international law. The organisation also calls on states to effectively investigate reports of child recruitment and use, and bring suspected perpetrators to justice.
The conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia were characterised by the extensive use of child soldiers. The prosecutor of the SCSL (established by the UN and Sierra Leonean government in 2002) issued its first indictments in 2003.
Charles Taylor was indicted under seal on 7 March 2003 and transferred to the Special Court on 29 March 2006. The Charles Taylor trial opened on 4 June 2007. During the trial, the SCSL heard testimonies of former child soldiers and of other witnesses, all pointing to the grave crimes committed against children and the long standing suffering that they endure. The judgment of the Trial Chamber II was delivered on 26 April 2012.
The SCSL has already convicted five individuals for enlisting children under the age of 15 years and using them to actively participate in hostilities and they are all serving prison sentences. Further, last year the Trial Chamber of the ICC also found the Congolese armed group leader, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers. That judgment is currently under appeal, and other individuals are charged before the ICC for the war crimes of recruiting and using child soldiers.
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