Liberia’s former President, Charles Taylor’s hopes of breathing the air of freedom were on Thursday dashed as an international war crimes court upheld the conviction and 50-year sentence passed on him for aiding Sierra Leonean rebels during the country’s civil war. The court stated that financial, material and tactical support from the former Liberian President facilitated horrendous crimes against civilians. More than 50,000 people were believed to have died during the 11-year civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone.
Many were also left mutilated as the rebels had penchants for chopping of the limbs of their civilian victims.
Taylor, 65, was convicted in April 2012 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity which included terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers.
While Taylor’s lawyers based their appeal on the argument that the original trial chamber made systematic errors in the evaluation of evidence and in the application of the law governing what constitutes “aiding and abetting” sufficiently serious to “reverse all findings of guilt entered against him”, the prosecution too appealed claiming that the 50-year sentence was not ‘reflective of the inherent gravity of the totality of his criminal conduct and overall culpability.” To them, the sentence should be increased to 80 years.
Taylor who wore a black suit and gold-coloured tie stood while Judge George Gelaga King who presided over the session read the unanimous verdict of the six-judge panel. The former Liberian leader is expected to serve his prison sentence in Britain.