Leading article: Show trial

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The Independent Online

The trial of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, could take up to four more years. Taylor has plenty to answer given the testimony of the 91 prosecution witnesses who have set out a catalogue of war crimes by his drug-crazed, machete-wielding child-soldiers who killed and maimed thousands of victims in furtherance of the illicit diamond trade.

He is not just answering to black -robed lawyers but to men such as Mustapha Mansary, a villager who travelled from Africa to Holland to testify. When a lawyer asked him if he could write he held up two stumps to show where one of Taylor's gangs had hacked off both of his hands.

Taylor is the first African head of state to be indicted for crimes against humanity. If his defence takes four years so be it. It is good that all the other war criminals in power across Africa should ponder that long, and fear the consequences of their present actions.