Henry Bellingham: Our commitment to imprisoning warlord in Britain shows our clear support of justice

The court's judgment demonstrates to Taylor's victims that impunity can and will be challenged

Share
Related Topics

On 26 April the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) handed down its landmark judgment against Charles Taylor. The court found Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting and planning crimes against humanity and war crimes during the brutal Sierra Leonean civil war.

The case demonstrates that those who commit the most serious of international crimes can and will be held to account. It demonstrates that international justice is patient and its reach is long. And it demonstrates to Taylor's many victims that impunity can and will be challenged. Yesterday, the SCSL sentenced Taylor to 50 years' imprisonment. He is likely to serve this sentence in a British prison.

Some will criticise our decision to stand by our commitment to imprison Taylor in these difficult economic times. But it is vitally important that we do just that. Honouring our commitment is a clear indication of our support for justice, for the process and the principle. Our commitment to international justice means that we too must share in the responsibility of imprisoning those found guilty. And in this case, our decision is a reflection of our deep-seated connection and commitment to post-conflict Sierra Leone.

In West Africa, where the scars of Taylor's crimes are healing, the judgment has been welcomed as the final step in securing justice following the SCSL's inception in 2002; a symbolic watershed between the past and a more prosperous and peaceful future. In Monrovia and Freetown, the people and their governments can now move on, building on the Special Court's legacy. Both governments can refocus attention on economic growth, improving social justice and, in Sierra Leone's case, preparations for the presidential election in November.

Over the past year, we have seen countless examples that demonstrate why leaders must be held to account for their actions, and why we need to invest in the institutions to do that. Beyond the SCSL the Government's support for international criminal justice is exemplified by our strong support for the International Criminal Court, which, in its 10th anniversary year, is regarded as a cornerstone of international criminal justice.

The ICC delivered its first verdict in March – convicting the Congolese militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, of war crimes. Last year it handled the UN Security Council's referral of the situation in Libya with speed and efficiency. This referral showed just how relevant the ICC is and demonstrated what can be achieved when the international community acts together swiftly and determinedly. We will continue to challenge impunity and to shine the light of accountability in all areas which it has not yet reached.

We send a message to the leaders of those countries who believe themselves immune from prosecution for criminal acts like those that took place in Houla, Syria, last weekend: we will not turn a blind eye. We will continue to challenge impunity and hold those, like Charles Taylor, who commit the most serious of international crimes to account.

Henry Bellingham is the British Government's minister for Africa

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: North Manchester Teaching Assistant...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Nurses needed in Manchester...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Nurses and Assistants requi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam