The conviction and final judgment of Charles G. Taylor, who was indicted in 2003 for committing war crimes in Sierra Leone, brought closure to two local men.
James C. Johnson, president and CEO of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, was the chief of prosecutions at the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2003-12, while David M. Crane, chairman of the Jackson Center Board of Directors, was chief prosecutor from 2002-05. During their tenures, both were heavily involved in the prosecution of Taylor, the former president of Liberia who was accused of aiding and abetting rebel forces that committed murderous atrocities against civilians in Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war.
On Thursday, Johnson and Crane witnessed the final chapter of their efforts, as a panel of appeals court judges at The Hague-the Netherlands' seat of government and international court of justice-upheld the 11-count indictment brought against Taylor last year, eliminating any chance for his 50-year prison sentence to be reduced or adjusted. It was the first time a former head-of-state was convicted in an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
Pictured from left are current and former members of prosecution team: Nick Koumjian, Brenda Hollis, Sir Desmond de Silva, David Crane, James Johnson and Mohamed Bangura.
"I'm very pleased with the resolution," said Johnson. "It feels good that the time we put into this case has brought justice to the victims and people of Sierra Leone."
Taylor, whose 11-count indictment included acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers, was allegedly supporting the Revolutionary United Front in its effort to overthrow the Joseph Mormoh government of Sierra Leone. Though publicly calling for peace, Taylor supported the rebel forces with weapons in exchange for so-called "blood diamonds." The civil war lasted from 1991 to 2002.
"This sends a strong message," said Johnson. "It doesn't matter who you are or what position you hold, you will be held accountable for committing crimes against humanity."
Johnson's new role as president of the Robert H. Jackson Center seems only fitting, considering the archival resource is dedicated to the chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials.
Jackson, a former lawyer from Chautauqua County, rose to prominence as Solicitor General, U.S. Attorney General and even Supreme Court Justice. His legacy, according to the center, has become a beacon of justice, fairness and human decency.
"(Here at the center) we will continue to promote the legacy of Jackson's work and bring justice to those who are victims of humanitarian crimes," said Johnson.
Located at 305 E. Fourth St. in Jamestown, the center seeks to inform the public of Jackson's contributions to the evolution of Federal law, the Supreme Court, the legal profession and the development of international criminal law. For more information, contact 483-6646 or visit www.roberthjackson.org/the-center.