Liberian ex-president Taylor awaits war crimes sentence | News | DW | 30.05.2012
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Liberian ex-president Taylor awaits war crimes sentence

The International Criminal Court has sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He's the first head of state to be sentenced since World War II.

The UN's Special Court for Sierra Leone judge, Richard Lussick, was due to pronounce the first sentence against a former head-of-state in an international court since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in 1946.

Chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis has called for 80 years imprisonment for Taylor for his role in a brutal decade-long war in which 120,000 lives were lost in Sierra Leone.

Taylor was convicted in April on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, having aided and abetted Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and their partners by arming them.

Amputee youths, playing football

A campaign of mutilation has left a legacy of disability in Sierra Leone

The prosecution had argued that the 64-year-old was paid in so-called "blood diamonds" mined by slave labor in areas under the control of rebels. During the war, rebels murdered, raped and kept sex-slaves as well as amputating civilians' limbs and conscripting child soldiers.

'Dirty diamonds' testimony

The case saw testimony from high-profile witnesses including model Naomi Campbell, who received a gift of "dirty diamonds" from the ex-leader in 1997.

Taylor has maintained his innocence, claiming he was instrumental in ending the civil war. Announcing the guilty verdicts last month, Judge Lussick stressed that although Taylor had "substantial influence" over the rebels, this fell short of command and control status.

The sentencing is the first of its kind, against a head of state, since German admiral Karl Dönitz was sentenced to 10 years in jail for his part in Nazi crimes. Dönitz was appointed head of state by Hitler shortly before he committed suicide.

rc/av (AFP, Reuters)