Liberia’s Charles Taylor sentenced to 50 years for war crimes

The International judges at Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in Leidschendam, Hague, Netherlands “A UN-backed war crimes court” has sentenced Former Liberian president Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison today Wednesday 30 May, 2012 for arming Sierra Leone rebels in return for “blood diamonds”. He was said to be responsible for “some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history” and was sentenced for war crimes during the long-running civil war in Sierra Leone.

Taylor was convicted last month on 11 charges of aiding and abetting the rebels who went on a savage rampage during the decade-long war that ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead. He was found guilty of offences including murder, rape, sexual slavery, recruiting child soldiers, enforced amputations and pillage.

Delivering the sentence on Wednesday, Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor’s crimes were of the “utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality”. “The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of his actions,” Lussick said.

Taylor, wearing a blue suit and gold tie, stood grim-faced and silent as Presiding Judge Richard Lussick of Samoa imposed what will likely amount to a life sentence for the 64 year old.

The trial chamber unanimously sentences you to a single term of imprisonment for 50 years on all counts,” said Special Court for Sierra Leone judge Richard Lussick at the court based just outside The Hague, Neitherlands”.

The former president was convicted on April 26 on all 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for aiding and abetting Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during the country’s 1991-2001 civil war. The 64-year-old warlord-turned-president is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II and judges said they had no precedent when deciding his sentence.He will serve his sentence in a British jail. His lawyers, however, are expected to appeal his convictions and that will likely keep him in a jail in The Hague, Netherlands, for months.

Prosecutors say he funneled arms, ammunition and other supplies in return for “blood diamonds” mined using slave labor – to gain increasing political clout in the volatile West Africa region.. They had asked judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone to impose an 80-year sentence. However, Taylor’s lawyers urged the judges to hand down a sentence that offered him some hope of release before he dies.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone found Taylor guilty last month on 11 charges of aiding and abetting the rebels who went on a bloody rampage during the decade-long war that ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead.Taylor stepped down and fled into exile in Nigeria after being indicted by the court in 2003. He was finally arrested and sent to the Netherlands in 2006.

Lussick said an 80-year sentence would have been excessive as Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting crimes and not direct involvement.

At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, Taylor had asked the court to deliver its sentence in a spirit of “reconciliation, not retribution”. He offered no admission of wrongdoing or words of remorse. “I express my sadness and sympathy for crimes suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone,” he told the panel of judges. “What I did to bring peace to Sierra Leone was done with honour. I was convinced that unless there was peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward. I pushed the peace process hard, contrary to how I have been portrayed in this court.” He insisted he had acted to help stabilize the West Africa region and claimed he never knowingly assisted in the commission of crimes.

The Judges rejected that argument, saying that while he posed as a peacemaker he was covertly fanning the flames of conflict by arming rebels.

We hope this landmark sentence will send a clear message to despots in Africa and around the world that they will be held to account for sponsoring atrocities; and even other corrupt practices.


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