War crimes convict and Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor has told a sentencing hearing in The Hague that he had tried to "bring peace" to neighboring Sierra Leone. But prosecutors insist he be jailed for 80 years.
The UN-backed special court reviewing a decade of civil war between 1991 and 2002 heard claims from Taylor that from Liberia he had tried to "bring peace" to adjacent Sierra Leone as a way to stabilize the western African region
Last month, judges found Taylor guilty on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying he had aided Revolutionary United Front rebels across the border by helping them obtain weapons in exchange for "blood diamonds" as they carried out executions, mutilations, rapes and conscripted child soldiers.
With sentencing due on May 30, Taylor said from the witness box on Wednesday that he had never "knowingly failed to prevent someone carrying out atrocities" and had not been able to monitor "every petty combatant."
He also criticized the tribunal itself, saying that under the relatively new system of international justice the "dogs were let out" on him and witnesses were "coerced."
Taylor was whisked to the Netherlands in 2006 after he had spent three years in exile in Nigeria while being sought for arrest by the court.
Ahead of Taylor's address, his chief defense lawyer Courtenay Griffiths said what he termed the "guardians of international justice" had yet to prosecute for crimes committed by a "great, white northern power against people of color."
Griffiths described the 80-year jail term sought by prosecutors as "excessive."
Prosecutor Brenda Hollis rejected that, saying Taylor's involvement in the intertwined conflict was "more pervasive than that of most of the most senior leaders" of the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone.
The longest sentence imposed so far by the court was 52 years handed down to rebel leader Issa Sesay, who testified on Taylor's behalf in 2010.
Taylor's trial before the Sierra Leone court was staged in Leidschendam, a suburb of The Hague, for fear that holding it in West Africa would destabilize the region.
Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war ended in 2002 after claiming more than 50,000 lives.
ipj/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)