May 11, 2012 - International criminal tribunals, as well as domestic prosecutions for extraordinary crimes are on the rise. The conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Special Court for Sierra Leone on April 26 is the first international prosecution of a former head of state since the 1946 conviction of Admiral Karl Dőnitz, the nominal German leader after Hitler’s suicide, at the Nuremberg trials. In September 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) prosecuted Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kabanda, who pled guilty for genocide.
The guilty verdict for Taylor sends a signal that the international community will no longer tolerate impunity for heads of state and governments who commit crimes. This marks a trend toward criminalizing acts that were previously viewed as political or military options such as: declaring war on other countries, torture, extrajudicial disappearances, executions, and systematic rape.
However, one must ask whether this is an exception to the rule of impunity and that the reason for Taylor's conviction had more to do with the politics of the powerful states that funded the Sierra Leone hybrid court and who arranged for his arrest at the Nigerian border and extradition from Liberia. The international community has shown no such resolve to punish other equally guilty leaders of great powers who have fit the Nuremberg precedent for prosecuting leaders based on actions like torture and indefinite detainment.
Most world leaders, however, who plan unjust wars and crimes against humanity have little to fear from this Taylor verdict, except possibly the heads of weak states who no longer serve great powers' national interests. read more>>>