Former Liberian President Charles Taylor unleashed a nightmare of murder, rape, and amputation across Sierra Leone, U.N. prosecutors charged this week. After winning a brutal civil war in Liberia in the late 1990s, Taylor joined forces with rebel leaders in neighboring Sierra Leone. His forces went from village to village, hacking up the men, enslaving the women, and conscripting the children into militias. These child soldiers were given drugs and sent rampaging through the diamond–producing regions so Taylor and the rebels could control the mines. Thousands of civilians had limbs amputated. Taylor, who is acting as his own defense attorney, refused to appear at the opening of his war–crimes trial. “I cannot participate in a charade,” Taylor said in a letter to the court. “I choose not to be a fig leaf of legitimacy for this process.”
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