Judges at an international war crimes court have sentenced Liberia’s former President, Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.”
Taylor showed no emotion as Lussick handed down what will effectively be a life sentence.
News Source: Guardian UK | Yahoo News