World

Liberia's Charles Taylor loses appeal against warcrimes conviction

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appears in court at the Special Court for Sierra Leone for his appeal judgment at The Hague September 26, 2013. Appeals judges upheld the conviction of Taylor on Thursday, reaffirming the 50-year prison sentence he was given last year for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Sierra Leone's civil war. REUTERS/Koen van Weel/Pool (NETHERLANDS - Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT CRIME LAW)

THE HAGUE: Charles Taylor lost his appeal against a war crimes conviction on Thursday, judges confirming a 50-year jail term against the former Liberian president for encouraging rebels in Sierra Leone to mutilate, rape and murder victims in a decade-long civil war.

Presiding judge George Gelaga King said Taylor had aided and abetted crimes committed by Revolutionary United Front and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council rebels, advising and assisting them while knowing well the kinds of crimes they were committing.

"Their primary purpose was to spread terror. Brutal violence was purposefully unleashed against civilians with the purpose of making them afraid, afraid that there would be more violence if they continued to resist," he said.

"Governments and the international community were also afraid that unless the RUF's and the AFRC's demands were met, thousands more killings, mutilations, abductions and rapes of civilians would follow."

Taylor, 65, smartly dressed in a crisp suit, sat impassively throughout the reading of the appeals judgment at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.

He is the first head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazis after World War II.

Taylor was also found guilty of crimes against humanity committed during the 11-year conflict in Sierra Leone, which cost some 50,000 lives and left tens of thousands of people mutilated, their fingers, hands or limbs chopped off.

Prosecutors said he used the proceeds from so-called blood diamonds mined in the conflict zone to finance his activities, which included advising and helping the rebels.

"This verdict shows no person, no matter how powerful, is above the law," said Brenda Hollis, the court's prosecutor.

"The conviction of those responsible for crimes committed during Sierra Leone's conflict has brought some measure of justice for the tens of thousands of victims," said Stephanie Barbour of Amnesty International.

But Morris Anyah, Taylor's lead defence lawyer, said Taylor would not have been convicted if he had had a powerful ally.

"If Charles Taylor had had a friend among the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, this case would not have had the traction it has had," he said, adding that Taylor had received the final verdict with great stoicism.

During his four-year initial trial, judges heard accounts from Sierra Leone civilians who had been mutilated by rebels or who had seen their close relatives murdered.

They also heard evidence from the supermodel Naomi Campbell, who was questioned about blood diamonds that Taylor allegedly sent to her hotel room. She described them as looking like "dirty pebbles."

Britain has agreed Taylor can serve his sentence at one of its maximum security prisons but Anyah said Taylor hoped to serve his term in Finland, Sweden or Rwanda - the other three countries which have enforcement agreements with the court.

In Liberia, Taylor's supporters denounced the court and its permanent successor, the International Criminal Court.

"This is complete international gangsterism," said, Cyril Allen, former secretary general of the National Patriotic Party. "The ICC was set up for Africans, to intimidate them and get their resources."

Thursday's ruling comes at a time when the very idea of international courts is coming under fire across Africa. The ICC has been accused of neo-colonial meddling in Kenya as it pursues cases against the country's president and deputy president.

Several African states are considering withdrawing from the ICC, which has only ever prosecuted Africans.

 

Recommended





Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus

Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here