There is a great hunger in the world. It is a hunger for justice. There is a famine of justice and they who hunger and thirst for it are rarely satisfied. But on 26 April, 2012, a historical landmark judgment at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the De Hague, The Netherlands, handed down a significant conviction that slightly eased the great hunger.
Charles Taylor, the war lord, instigator of atrocities, arms merchant of death and destruction, dealer in blood diamonds, aide and abettor of horrific acts against humanity and war crimes and former president of Liberia was found guilty of all those. He is the first head of state in the history of the world to be tried and convicted by an impartial international court of justice. It came after almost five years of trial, millions of dollars donated by nations supporting the pursuit of justice.
He encouraged and supported a rebel group to instigate a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone in the 1990's. Taylor was found guilty of supporting and arming the rebels that tried to overthrow the democratically elected government of that country.
The crimes he is guilty of aiding and abetting are the slaughter of innocents, recruiting child soldiers, murder, slavery, multiple rape, child abuse and grotesque chopping of limbs of civilians to create terror and fear. Half the population of Sierra Leone fled the country and as many as 50,000 were killed. Senseless, barbarous and brutal murders of whole villages of women and children. Thousands died also in Liberia and the conflict threatened to spill over into other nations, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
The trial held in The Hague is part of The Special Court for Sierra Leone, established in June 2002, based in the capital Freetown and set up by the United Nations and Sierra Leone and pushed by Britain, the United States and Canada. It has found eight more leaders of fighting forces guilty of atrocities and sentenced them to long prison terms. Taylor was tried in The Hague to prevent his followers from causing disruption and unrest where it held in Freetown.
The guilty verdict handed down by judges from Samoa, Ireland and Uganda was brought about by the testimony of as many as 115 witnesses. They testified to the mutilations, they displayed their own mutilated bodies and described the way children were drugged and forced to kill their own parents and friends.
The verdict sends a strong message to other national leaders, war lords and instigators, supporters of crimes against humanity that even if they are not in direct command of the forces doing the evil deeds they will still be held responsible.
While we may take some small comfort in the thought that at least one tyrant has been found guilty, (Taylor will be sentenced on 6 May) there are millions of victims of brutality, rape and violence living with anger and hopelessness and longing for justice.
The evil doers are militant and active in raping and killing but those of us who deplore and condemn such acts seldom get involved in personal or a group action to work for peace and justice. Everyone ought to belong to a justice and peace group and lobby, rally, protest, campaign and work for peace and justice in every way possible. We can change the world of injustice if we become active and put our faith in the value of justice. Faith without action is worthless wrote James the apostle.
Lets do some justice together. I am appealing to readers for help in one for many cases of child rape where justice is being thwarted by the prosecution and even the judge. Please write to the Philippine Secretary of Justice, Leila de Lima, DOJ, Padre Faura Street. Manila, Philippines.
The charge is against the accused Apolonio Valdez for Incestuous Rape, Criminal Case No. FC 1966. At the regional Trial Court, Pampanga. Please request for a special prosecutor to help Rosa, a 7 year old rape victim by the live-in partner of her Mother. The mother is aiding and abetting the rape and does nothing to help the child who is in the care and protection of the PREDA children's Home, Olongapo City. www.preda.org. violently Raped at 7 years old the child is still waiting for justice now 9 years old. This is just one of 35 cases of child abuse, the children are afraid to go home because the abuser is out there waiting for them. They should be in jail. The children are hungering and thirsting for justice and so should all of us.
Spero columnist Rev. Shay Cullen is a founder of PREDA.org - a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating the exploitation of children.