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 international court in The Hague sentenced former Liberian president Charles Taylor for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
Taylor was found guilty in April of aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 conflict that claimed an estimated 50,000 lives. Prosecutors said he funneled weapons, ammunition and other equipment to rebel fighters in return for illegally-mined "blood diamonds," secured using slave labor.
No precedents available
The prosecution had asked for an 80-year sentence, while Taylor's defense team had said such a jail-term would be "disproportionate," without suggesting an alternative.
The 64-year-old former president had said before the sentencing hearing that he considered himself innocent, saying on May 16 that he "never stood a chance" in a tribunal that practiced a "one size fits all form of international justice."
Judge Richard Lussick spent a little over half an hour delivering the sentence, listing various reasons why the mitigating factors claimed by Taylor's defense team did little to diminish the scale of his culpability. He also said that the crimes in which Taylor was found to be complicit were of the "utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality."
"The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of [Taylor's] actions," Lussick said.
Taylor is the first former head of state to be jailed, convicted and sentenced since the Second World War, and the judge acknowledged that there were therefore no real precedents on which to base a verdict.
"The special status of Mr. Taylor as a head of state puts him in a different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing," Lussick said.
Taylor will serve his sentence in a British jail though his lawyers are expected to appeal his April convictions, a process that might keep him at The Hague for several months. He has been in custody in The Hague since 2006, and that time in prison will count towards his 50-year sentence.
Taylor was the first head of state to face international conviction since Karl Donitz, the Nazi-era admiral who was promoted to the role of "Führer" by Adolf Hitler shortly before Hitler committed suicide. Donitz was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in Nazi war crimes and was released in 1956.
msh/ccp (AFP, AP, dpa)