A UN-backed court has upheld war crimes convictions against former Liberian president Charles Taylor. He had appealed against a 50 year jail sentence for backing rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for ‘blood diamonds’.
The final ruling by the appeals judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) marks the end of seven years of proceedings.
It leaves in place a 50-year jail sentence imposed in April 2012 by the original court panel, which convicted Taylor of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1991-2002 civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
The prosecution had sought an 80-year jail term, but charges that Taylor had directly ordered massacres could not be verified during his trial.
His defense lawyers had pointed to "systematic errors" in the analysis of evidence and claimed that the case against Taylor relied on "uncorroborated hearsay evidence as the sole basis for specific incriminating findings of fact."
Taylor's advocates also accused the court of a "miscarriage of justice" and claimed that he "never stood a chance" in a tribunal that practiced a "one size fits all form of international justice."
Sierra Leone's conflagration claimed some 120,000 lives.
At last year's trial, the former Liberian president was found guilty on numerous charges of having aided and abetted the Revolutionary United Front rebels in their crimes, including murder, rape and torture, in exchange for diamonds mined by slave laborers in regions controlled by the rebels.
A number of high-profile witnesses were heard, such as actress Mia Farrow and former supermodel Naomi Campbell, who allegedly received such diamonds from Taylor as gifts.
Taylor was president of Liberia for six years, between 1997 and 2003. He went into exile in Nigeria in 2003, in response to international pressure. He was arrested there in March 2006 and transferred to the court in The Hague.
The war crimes court was set up in 2002 by agreement between the government in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and the United Nations.
Taylor is the first former head of state to be convicted at an international court since the Nuremberg Trials of 1946. There, German Admiral Karl Dönitz, who coordinated Germany's World War II surrender in a brief tenure as "president" after Adolf Hitler's suicide, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his wartime role.
He is now likely to spend the rest of his life in jail, possibly in Britain.
rg/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)