December 18, 2014

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for Sierra Leone war crimes

A U.N.-backed court on Wednesday sentenced former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, to 50 years in jail for his contributions to rebels in Sierra Leone during the country’s decade-long bloody civil war.

Last month, the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague found Taylor guilty of providing support for RUF rebels in the neighbouring country, who carried out terrible war crimes, including murder, rape and the use of child soldiers during the 1991-2002 civil war.

Taylor was accused of providing the rebels with weapons in exchange for “blood diamonds”. His guilty conviction on 11 counts of war crimes in April was hailed as a landmark ruling and welcomed by many, including victims of the war.

BBC reported that the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges said the sentence reflected his status as head of state at the time of the crimes and betrayal of public trust.

Though the prosecution pushed for an 80-year prison sentence for Taylor, the judge argued that sentence would have been excessive, considering Taylor’s indirect involvement in the war crimes.

Judge Richard Lussick said the crimes in Sierra Leone were some of the most heinous in history, adding that “while Mr. Taylor never set foot in Sierra Leone, his heavy foot print is there”.

Taylor is the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of Nazis after World War II, the BBC reported.

Taylor, 64, has in return, accused prosecution of bribing and coercing witnesses in his war crimes trial.

No remorse

He had asked judges to consider his age and claimed he was “no threat to society”. However, judges say they were influenced by Taylor’s lack of remorse. During his sentence hearing, the former dictator offered no apologies for his role in the prolonged civil war.

While Taylor had said he had “deepest sympathy” for the victims in Sierra Leone, he did not apologise for his part in the conflict. Judges say given his past, they had little hope for rehabilitation and agreed that his age or family should have no bearing on the length of his sentence.

Defence lawyers have argued that their client must not bear sole blame for the crimes committed in Sierra Leone’s bloody war, saying the court should not aid ”attempts by the prosecution to provide the Sierra Leoneans with this external bogey man upon whom can be heaped the collective guilt of a nation for its predominantly self-inflicted wounds”.

Taylor is likely to appeal the ruling and that process could last up to six months, the BBC reported.

The Dutch government, who agreed to have the case tried in their country so as to avoid destabilization in Liberia, insist that Taylor serve out his sentence somewhere else. So he is likely to do so in the UK, reports said.

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