Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years for War Crimes

Posted May 30th, 2012 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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A special tribunal in The Hague sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison Wednesday for war crimes and crimes against humanity in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone said Taylor used his position to aid and abet rebels rather than to promote peace and stability. Presiding judge Richard Lussick said Taylor was responsible for “aiding and abetting some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded history.”

Last month, the court convicted the 64-year-old Taylor on all 11 counts of an indictment that included charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, recruitment of child soldiers and enslavement.

The court found that Taylor did not have command and control of rebels who carried out abuses during Sierra Leone's civil war, but was aware of their activities and provided them with weapons and encouragement in exchange for so-called “blood diamonds” mined in eastern Sierra Leone.

Taylor's legal team indicated it would appeal the verdict.

Hundreds of people turned out at a courthouse in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, to watch Taylor's sentencing broadcast live from the Hague.

Sierra Leone's government said “justice has been done,” saying the 50-year prison sentence was welcome news for victims who may now find some relief.

Some Sierra Leonians expressed disappointment with the sentence, saying it was too short, while others said

they thought the sentence was too harsh.

But the former chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, David Crane, called Taylor's sentence “appropriate.”

He told VOA the verdict represents the “end of an era” for a man who played a central role in atrocities that destroyed lives in Sierra Leone.

Rights groups also hailed the sentence. Human Rights Watch said it signaled that the world is becoming “increasingly intolerant of leaders who exploit their positions” to commit crimes.

London-based Amnesty International called the sentencing a “milestone,” but added it was “only one step toward justice.” The group said victims of crimes orchestrated by Taylor had a right to seek reparations and to see all of those linked to the atrocities prosecuted.

Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg Nazi trials in 1946.