The International Criminal Court t in The Hague has found former Liberian President Charles Taylor for aiding and abetting as well as planning Sierra Leone’s barbaric civil war in which the most heinous crimes in recent human history were committed.
The presiding judge of the ICC, Richard Lussick said when handing down the ruling of the court in a prepared statement that the former Liberian President “lengthy prison term underscored his position at the top of government during that period. “Leadership must be carried out by example by the prosecution of crimes, not the commission of crimes.”
Prosecutors had fought for a longer sentence of 80 years but the court’s ruling means the 64-year-old former warlord will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Taylor legal team announce that they will immediately file an appeal. “The sentence is clearly excessive, clearly disproportionate to his circumstances, his age and his health and does not take into account the fact that he stepped down from office voluntarily,” Morris Anya disclosed, one of the lawyers representing the former Liberian leader.
The prosecution also announced it too was considering its own appeal, both to lengthen the sentence and to broaden the responsibility attributed to Mr. Taylor for crimes committed under his leadership.
At a news conference after the hearing, Salamba Silla who works with victims groups in Sierra Leone pleaded for more help for former child soldiers, orphans and other victims of the country’s war. “You can see hundreds of them begging on the streets of Freetown,” she said. “Many who suffered horrendously need help to return to the provinces, they think they cannot survive there.”
The Special Court for Sierra Leone found Mr. Taylor was found guilty in April on 11counts war crimes and violation of international humanitarian law for his role commenting barbaric and despicable crimes including recruiting child soldiers, mutilation of civilians selling of diamond to pay for guns and ammunition.
“Mr. Taylor was motivated in these gruesome actions not by any ideology but rather by “pure avarice” and a thirst for power, the prosecution said.
The tribunal began in Sierra Leone and is still formally based there, but out of concern that holding hearings in West Africa would cause unrest among those who still support Mr. Taylor, it was moved to the town of Leidschendam outside of The Hague.
Eight other leading members of different forces and rebel groups have already been sentenced by the tribunal. Mr. Taylor is the special court’s last defendant. His trial began in 2006 and since then, 115 witnesses have given testimony.
Mr. Taylor himself spent seven months in the witness chair during which time he said that he would “never, ever” have permitted atrocities.
Mr. Taylor did not speak at the sentencing on Wednesday, but in a hearing earlier this month he offered his sympathy – but not an apology – to the victims and their families for a gruesome conflict that left an estimated 50,000 dead. “I express my sadness and sympathy for crimes suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone,” Mr. Taylor said during a roughly 30-minute address to the court.
But he also defended himself and seemed to explain his actions in the context of a desire for regional stability. “What I did was done with honor,” he said. “I was convinced that unless there was peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward.”
Mr. Taylor is the first president to be found guilty of war crime and international crimes against humanity since world war II.