Charles Taylor gets 50 years for 'brutal' crimes
Published Wednesday, May 30, 2012 9:49PM EDT
Charles Taylor, the former warlord-turned-president convicted for supporting a long-running war in exchange for "blood diamonds," has been sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Judges at a United Nations-backed international war crimes court in The Hague handed down the sentence Wednesday, saying the former Liberian president was responsible for "some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history."
In his remarks, the Special Court for Sierra Leone's presiding 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."
Because Taylor is the first head of state convicted by a war crimes tribunal since the Second World War, judges at the SCSL had said there was no precedent for sentencing the 64-year-old.
Prosecutors had sought an 80-year sentence, but Lussick said that would have been excessive in light of Taylor's conviction for aiding and abetting crimes, rather than direct involvement.
"The special status of Mr. Taylor as a head of state puts him in a different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing," Lussick said.
Taylor was convicted last month, after four years of hearings, on 11 charges related to the provision of weapons, ammunition and other supplies to the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and other factions carrying out atrocities in Sierra Leone.
Between 1996 and 2002, prosecutors said Taylor received so-called "blood diamonds" often mined with slave labour in return.
The court also heard that Taylor knew, from August 2007, that the rebels were waging an intentionally savage campaign of terror on civilians in the war that ultimately killed 50,000 and left many others the victims of amputations.
At his recent sentencing hearing, Taylor said he never knowingly assisted any criminal activity. Telling the court he acted with "honour," he said he did what he believed necessary for stability in West Africa.
Prosecutor Brenda Hollis painted a much different picture in her sentencing appeal, accusing Taylor of greed and abuse of power.
"The purposely cruel and savage crimes committed included public executions and amputations of civilians, the display of decapitated heads at checkpoints, the killing and public disembowelment of a civilian whose intestines were then stretched across the road to make a check point, public rapes of women and girls, and people burned alive in their homes," Hollis wrote.
Taylor was arrested and sent to the Netherlands in 2006, three years after he fled Liberia for Nigeria.
He will serve his sentence in Britain, but will only be moved there once the appeal process is ended.