FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Thousands of people who survived Sierra Leone's brutal civil war a decade ago celebrated Thursday after learning that Charles Taylor had been convicted for his role in the conflict that left behind countless amputees and traumatized former child soldiers.
Officials had set up special viewing sites for people to watch the verdict live as it was read from the Netherlands. Jusu Jarka, who lost both of his arms during the fighting in 1999, was among those closely watching the verdict.
"I am happy that the truth has come out ... that Charles Taylor is fully and solely responsible for the crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone," he said.
Crowds who had gathered in the capital of Freetown sighed with relief when the conviction was announced. While the reaction was subdued, anger was on display on a series of posters. One read: "Shame on you Charles Taylor. Give us your diamonds before going to prison."
Sierra Leone's civil war that ended in 2002 left more than 50,000 dead. Countless survivors bear emotional and physical scars from the war as rebels hacked off the limbs of many of their victims.
Abdul Rahin Kamara called it "the greatest day for justice in Sierra Leone."
"The conviction of Charles Taylor has sent a clear and unambiguous signal that the days of impunity are over and that nobody is above the law regardless of your position in society," he said.
Taylor had pleaded not guilty to all counts, claiming in seven months of testimony in his own defense that he was a statesman and peacemaker in West Africa. While judges convicted him of aiding and abetting atrocities by rebels, they cleared him of direct command responsibility, saying he had no direct control over the rebels he supported.