What Women Wrought: Leymah Gbowee, Charles Taylor and Justice
by The Charter
11 months ago
For the first time since the Nuremberg Trials a former head of state has been convicted of war crimes. Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison May 30, 2012 by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee and her countrywomen can take some credit for Taylor's fall from power in their country, Liberia. For 15 years Liberia was gripped by civil war between the government of the corrupt and ruthless Charles Taylor, and warlords battling to overthrow him. More than 200,000 people had been killed and one out of three were made homeless. Leymah Gbowee and her countrywomen were so desperate they decided to try and put a stop to the fighting. Armed with only a simple white t-shirt, they took to the streets knowing they could well be beaten and killed. They became "the market women," cajoling the fighting men and employing a tactic so old it was once used by the women of ancient Greece: No peace, no sex.
You can watch the multiple award-winning doucmetary about the movement, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, for free thanks to PBS.
What is Justice?
The workings the court in The Hague have not been without controversy. But there is no escaping controversy when the charge is war crimes. What's the right path between accountability and retribution? Can the society be better healed on the model of a panel like the famed Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa or prosecution? Who has the right to judge? The United States is not itself a signatory to the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Courts of Justice. The International Center for Transitional Justice, which uses a variety of approaches to help nations deal with a legacy of human rights abuses, is perpetually engaged around the globe.
Not unexpectedly, Leymah Gbowee is not interested in celebrating the conviction but on healing her country. Kony 2012, controversy and all, has opened the world's eyes to the problems of child soldiers, a group also exploited by Taylor. Gbowee worries most for these young victims: "Bringing these young ex-combatants home spiritually and physically matters to all of us. We need their help rebuilding our country. And we need to educate and empower them and their children, to lift them out of abject poverty, if the problems that originally led to war are not to resurface in the future in a new and terrible way."