Expert Available: Emira Woods comments on Charles Taylor, former head of state of Liberia found guilty of war crimes

Washington DC – Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor was found guilty of 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity this morning by an international court at The Hague. Ms. Emira Woods, public scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies originally from Liberia, is available today for comment/interview on the case.

Ms. Woods writes:

“Taylor’s case is associated with many firsts. He is the first head of state to have escaped from a U.S. medium security prison. He is the first head of state to publically refuse to sign an imbalanced rubber concession agreement with Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. He was the first sitting head of state to be brought on charges for international crimes against humanity. And now, he is the first head of state since World War II to have been convicted of war crimes by an international criminal court.

Taylor was accused of 11 charges, ranging from murder, rape, and sexual violence to the recruitment and use of child soldiers in a long and bloodied war in Liberia’s neighbor Sierra Leone. Taylor was charged by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a court that predates the formation of the International Criminal Court.

Taylor’s history is a reminder that proxy wars can be like deadly dominoes. Embroiled in cold war politics, Taylor and his forces were trained, armed, and financed by Libya’s former president Mohamar Qaddafi as an antidote to Liberia’s U.S.-backed dictator Samuel Doe. Taylor successfully ousted Doe in a war that ultimately killed 250,000 Liberians.

While in Libya, Taylor was trained with Sierra Leonean rebel leader Foday Sankoh, head of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor and Sankoh marched forth from Libya to unleash terror in the subregion.

Taylor, Qaddafi’s proxy, then served with Qaddafi as patrons of Sankoh as he led RUF in a push for power and control of diamond rich Sierra Leone. Taylor is alleged to have served as kingpin in what was a vibrant guns for diamonds trading scheme. The spotlight of the trial shone most brightly on supermodel Naomi Campbell who had allegedly received from Taylor what she called ‘dirty little stones’ — rough diamonds.

Taylor’s trial was an effort to bring to book a key leader in a machinery of repression that killed 50,000 Sierra Leoneans and amputated the limbs of tens of thousands more, mostly civilians.

The long-awaited verdict of the Special Court brings some measure of justice to a region ripped apart by brutality, greed, and proxy geopolitical actors.

A guilty verdict means that the strange case of Charles Taylor can at long last lead to a path cemented by the rule of law.”

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 
EMIRA WOODS, CO-DIRECTOR OF FOREIGN POLICY IN FOCUS, A PROJECT OF THE INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES:

Ms. Emira Woods is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, and an expert on U.S. foreign policy with a special emphasis on Africa and the developing world. She has written on a range of issues from debt, trade and development to U.S. military policy. Ms. Woods serves on the Board of Directors of Africa Action, Just Associates, Global Justice and the Financial Policy Forum. She is also on the Network Council of Jubilee USA.

Ms. Woods completed her undergraduate studies at Columbia University and her graduate studies at Harvard. Prior to joining IPS, she was program manager for the Committee on Development Policy and Practice at InterAction, serving as a principal staff contact for advocacy at the UN, the international financial institutions, USAID and Treasury. Previous to that, she served as a program officer of Oxfam America’s Africa program.

Ms. Woods is a regular commentator on CNN’s Your World Today, BBC’s The World Today (Weekend), and appears regularly on Al Jazeera and Voice of America. She has hosted a WashingtonPost.com online chat and has published pieces in BBC’s Focus on Africa magazine, NAACP’s Crisis magazine as well as the Miami Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, New York Newsday, the Nation, the Baltimore Sun, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, among many others.

Ms. Woods is chair of the Board of Africa Action and serves on the advisory committee of the Zimbabwe Alliance as well as the Humanity United/Trustafrica Liberia program. She is also on the Board of Directors of Global Justice and is a member of the Network Council of Jubilee USA.

# # #

Contact: Lacy MacAuley, Institute for Policy Studies (202) 445-4692, lacy@ips-dc.org

Institute for Policy Studies: (202) 234-9382 (main)

** Interviews with Ms. Emira Woods, please contact Lacy MacAuley **