Berlusconi and 15 Other Convicted Heads of State
After fighting numerous criminal allegations and court trials for two decades, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was found guilty of tax fraud Friday.
A Milan court accused him of purchasing film rights at inflated prices from companies also under his control in order to evade taxes. Should the sentence be upheld by a higher court, the media mogul will have to serve a prison sentence and will be barred from holding any public office.
Berlusconi joins a growing group of former prime ministers and presidents who have been indicted, tried, or even convicted.
A 2009 book, “Prosecuting Heads of State,” diagnosed a “meteoritic rise of in trials of senior leaders” since 1990. It counted 67 cases of former heads of state or heads of government who have been or were in the process of being prosecuted, most of them for serious human rights violations or financial crimes.
Here is a list of another 15 former state leaders who were convicted over the last two decades, either by domestic courts or international tribunals.
The French conservative politician served twice as prime minster (1974–76 & 1986–88) and as the country’s president from 1995 to 2007. After leaving office and losing his immunity from prosecution, Chirac was prosecuted for corruption charges related to his term as mayor of Paris (1977-95). In 2011, he was convicted of misusing public funds and abusing public trust and given a two-year suspended sentence.
The controversial former Peruvian president, who ruled from 1990 to 2000, was convicted in four trials and given sentences between 15 months and 25 years. Peru’s courts found Fujimori guilty of abuse of power, illegal wiretapping, bribery, extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, and embezzlement of state funds.
Videla ruled as president during the brutal military rule in Argentina from 1976 to 1981. The former Lieutenant General is seen as co-responsible for the so-called Dirty War: a campaign of suppression that killed up to 30,000 citizens. After Argentina returned to civilian rule, he was convicted in 1985 for homicide, robbery, aggravated false arrests, and torture. In 1998 he was put under house arrest and has been imprisoned since 2008. In July 2012, a court sentenced him to 50 years in prison for the systemic abduction of babies from political prisoners.
The former African leader was the first former head of state to be convicted by an international tribunal since World War II. The UN-sponsored Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) found Taylor, Liberia’s president 1997-2003, guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in May 2012. The court deemed Taylor “individually responsible” for the gross violations committed by rebel forces during the devastating civil war in the 1990s that included pillage, rape, enslavement, amputations, and use of child soldiers.
The former governor of Bangkok served as Thai Prime Minister for nine months in 2008. Samak had to step down in September 2008 amid mass protests by the opposition against him as well as corruption charges. The Constitutional Court found him guilty of accepting payments for hosting a cooking show during his premiership. A different court upheld a upheld a two-year jail sentence for defamation. Sundaravej left to the United States, supposedly to receive cancer treatment and died in 2009.
Having ruled Iraq from 1979 to 2003, Hussein directed two unsuccessful military campaigns against Iran and Kuwait. The United States and allied forces attacked Iraq in March 2003 over charges of harboring weapons of mass destruction. When troops seized the capital Baghdad in April 2003, Hussein fled into hiding, but was captured eight months later. The Iraqi High Tribunal found the former president of Iraq guilty of the retaliatory murders of 148 Shiites in the village of Dujail in 1982, among other crimes against humanity. During the nine-month trial, Hussein interrupted the court proceedings repeatedly. He was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2006 and executed one month later.
Kambanda as Rwandan prime minister oversaw one of the worst crimes against humanity: the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The massacre took more than 800,000 lives, mostly from the Tutsi minority population. The U.N.-sponsored International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Tanzania, charged Kambanda, a member of the Hutu majority, with six crimes of genocide. In May 1998, he pleaded guilty, which constituted “the first time in history that an accused person has acknowledged and affirmed his or her guilt for the crime of genocide before an international criminal tribunal,” according to the ICTR. Kambanda was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Krenz served as the last General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unionist Party (SED) in East Germany, the de-facto head of state. Krenz tried unsuccessfully to save the communist regime from collapsing. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and amid massive protests, he was forced to resign. In 1997, a Berlin state court sentenced him to more than six years in prison for manslaughter. The court saw him complicit in the shootings of fleeing East Germans at the inner-German border. After serving four years he was released.
P. W. Botha
Botha served as prime minister and state president of the apartheid regime of South Africa from 1978 to 1989. After the end of the institutionalized segregation, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up in 1995 to bring transparency to the atrocities committed under the apartheid regime. The commission offered amnesty to those who were willing to testify. In 1997, Botha was fined and received a suspended sentence after he refused to appear in front of the commission. He died in 2006.
The former president ruled Egypt for almost three decades (1981-2011). The Criminal Court of Egypt in June 2012 found him complicit in the deaths of demonstrators during the Arab Spring protests that led to his ousting in early 2011. While in frail health, Mubarak was convicted to life imprisonment.
Thaksin Shinawatra, the older brother of the current Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, served as Thailand’s PM from 2001 to 2006. He was found guilty on corruption charges and sentenced to two years in prison in 2008. Two years later, Thailand’s Supreme Court allowed the government to seize $1.4 billion of Thaksin’s assets as part of the conviction. Thaksin currently lives in exile in Dubai.
Olmert served as Israeli prime minister from 2006 to 2009. He was forced to step down over charges of corruption. Olmert was later found guilty by a court for breach of trust and has been handed a suspended one-year prison sentence.
Tymoshenko was a key figure during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004 that led to the ousting of then—and now—president Victor Yanukovych. She served as Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2007 to 2010. After an unsuccessful bid for the presidency, she was convicted in October 2011 over accusations of abuse of power involving a gas deal that she had signed with Russia during her term that allegedly disadvantaged Ukraine. Her supporters at home, as well as human rights groups and Western governments, have criticized her sentencing and accuse President Yanukovych of using the trial as a political weapon to get rid of his main rival.
Mengistu Haile Mariam
The communist dictator, who ruled Ethiopia from 1977 to 1991, initiated a Red Terror campaign that took hundreds of thousands of lives. Mengistu was forced into exile in 1991 amid coup attempts and inner crises. In 2008 an Ethiopian court found him guilty of genocide, and sentenced him to death, while he remains at large in Zimbabwe.
Estrada served as president of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001. The former movie star was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for plundering. However, a month after his conviction in September 2007, Estrada was pardoned by his successor, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
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