Judges at the Hague have upheld the 50-year jail sentence of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for aiding murderous rebels in Sierra Leone’s civil war.
Taylor, 65, had earlier been found guilty by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on April 26, 2012, of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on Thursday rejected Taylor’s appeal against his earlier conviction.
“The trial and judgment of Charles Taylor sets out a clear marker that even those at the highest levels of power can be held to account,” Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “The Taylor trial, and the Sierra Leone Special Court’s work overall, have made a major contribution to justice for brutal crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s conflict.”
About 50,000 people died in the 11-year civil war that ended in 2002.
Thousands more were left mutilated in a conflict that became known for the extreme cruelty of rival rebel groups who gained international notoriety for hacking off the limbs of their victims and carving their groups’ initials into opponents. The rebels developed gruesome terms for the mutilations that became their chilling trademark: They would offer their victims the choice of “long sleeves” or “short sleeves” – having their hands hacked off or their arms sliced off above the elbow.
Taylor was convicted not only of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone rebels from Liberia, but also for actually planning some of the attacks carried out by Sierra Leone rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.
Taylor’s trial was moved from the Special Court of Sierra Leone’s headquarters in the capital, Freetown, to the Netherlands because of fears it could destabilise the West African region if held in Sierra Leone.
The Taylor appeals ruling is the final judgment at the court, which indicted 13 of the main architects of the atrocities in Sierra Leone. Two died before trial and one more remains unaccounted for and possibly dead. Another died before hearing a verdict and all the others were tried and convicted.