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Appeals court confirms jail term for Liberia's Taylor

© Photo: AFP

Video by Kate Moody

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-26

A UN-backed tribunal in The Hague has upheld the conviction of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who was sentenced to 50 years in jail last year for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

An international war crimes court has upheld the conviction and 50-year sentence of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for aiding rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone, saying Taylor’s financial, material and tactical support made possible horrendous crimes against civilians.

The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone confirmed Taylor's prison sentence for arming rebels during the brutal 1990s civil war.

"The appeals chamber... affirms the sentence of 50 years in prison and orders that the sentence be imposed immediately," judge George King told the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Taylor, 65, was convicted in April 2012 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Judge King said Taylor had aided and abetted crimes committed by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council rebels, advising and assisting them while knowing well the kinds of crimes they were committing.

“Their primary purpose was to spread terror. Brutal violence was purposefully unleashed against civilians with the purpose of making them afraid, afraid that there would be more violence if they continued to resist,” he said.

Prosecutors said that Taylor was remunerated by the RUF with so-called blood diamonds mined by slave labour in rebel-controlled areas.

‘Some measure of justice’ for mutilated victims

Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazis after World War II.

“This verdict shows that even those at the highest levels can be held to account,” Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch told FRANCE 24. “There is no question that this is a hugely significant ruling.”

“The conviction of those responsible for crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s conflict has brought some measure of justice for the tens of thousands of victims,” said Stephanie Barbour of Amnesty International.

The 11-year conflict cost some 50,000 lives and left tens of thousands of people mutilated; their fingers, hands or limbs chopped off.

The UK has agreed for Taylor to serve his sentence at one of its maximum security prisons but his lead defence lawyer, Morris Anyah, said Taylor hoped to serve his term in Finland, Sweden or Rwanda – the other three countries which have enforcement agreements with the court.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-09-26

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