International court sentences Charles Taylor to 50 years for war crimes in Sierra Leone

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his involvement in perpetuating the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002.  

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2012. SOURCE: United Nations

The unanimous decision was reached by a three-judge panel a month after Taylor was convicted of 11 counts of war crimes, including terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, and conscripting child soldiers.

Read more: Ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor convicted of war crimes

Taylor, who served as Liberia’s President between 1997 and 2003, is the first head of state to be convicted of war crimes since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

“The Trial Chamber wishes to underscore the gravity it attaches to Mr. Taylor’s betrayal of the public trust,” said Justice Richard Lussick of Samoa, who presided the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Special Court was established in 2002 by the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone to prosecute atrocities committed during the Sierra Leone civil war.

Prosecutors alleged that, during his presidency, Taylor provided the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel forces with weapons, ammunitions, and supplies in exchange for precious diamonds illegally mined in Sierra Leone. (The “blood diamond” trade funded the RUF’s reign of terror in Sierra Leone as well as the Second Liberian Civil War between Taylor’s military and rebel forces.)

The RUF popularized the use of child soldiers to fight against the democratically-elected government in Sierra Leone. The RUF was also known for amputating, raping, and enslaving civilians caught in rebel-held territories

The Sierra Leone civil war killed 50,000, maimed thousands, and displaced as many as 2 million Sierra Leoneans at the peak of the violence. In addition, 17,000 children were forced to serve as soldiers, human shields, sex slaves, and mine laborers by RUF forces.

“This sentence imposed today does not replace amputated limbs, does not bring back to life those who were murdered, does not heal the wounds of those who were victims of sexual violence, and does not remove the permanent emotional, psychological and physical scars of those enslaved or recruited as child soldiers. But this sentence does bring some measure of justice for these terrible wrongs, and reflects the condemnation of all members of the global community for the suffering inflicted on innocent men, women, and children,” said Brenda J. Hollis, Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who was seeking an 80-year sentence for Taylor.

At the sentencing proceeding, Taylor, 64, expressed his “sadness and deepest sympathy for the atrocities and crimes that were suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone” but denied that he was responsible for crimes committed by the RUF.

Both the prosecution and defense will have 14 days to appeal the sentencing.


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