Taylor expected to get lighter sentence

2012-05-29 22:38

Dakar - Former Liberian president Charles Taylor is likely to receive a lighter sentence than what the prosecution has called for when judges at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone deliver their final judgement on Wednesday, experts predict.

Taylor was found guilty in The Hague on 26 April on 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone's brutal civil war, which ended in 2002.

Wednesday's sentencing follows a hearing earlier this month in which chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis recommended that Taylor be handed a punishment of 80 years behind bars. Taylor's defence team, led by Courtenay Griffiths, has asked that the 64-year-old former leader is not given a jail term that would translate to a life sentence.

According to William Shabas, a renowned professor in international human rights law at Britain's Middlesex University, the fact that Taylor was acquitted of commanding and masterminding the atrocities in Sierra Leone should be key in determining an appropriate sentence.

"Taylor has been portrayed by the prosecution and by many in the international community as being the evil villain behind the conflict in Sierra Leone," Shabas told dpa on Tuesday.

"There's a tendency to want to punish him for all of that, and yet at the same time the message that emerged from the judgement is one of someone who played a rather less significant role in the conflict... as an accomplice to the atrocities rather than as the central organizer of them," he said.

Shabas said the Special Court for Sierra Leone gave "extraordinarily high sentences" to the Sierra Leonean rebel leaders it convicted before Taylor.

"They range from a few years to 52 years ... I think it should come down significantly from that," Shabas added. "International courts have seen sentences for other terrible atrocities that were in the neighbourhood of 15 to 20 years."

Weight of retribution

Although the court is not officially allowed to hand out a life sentence, rights experts say the jail term recommended by the prosecution would be just that.

"In Liberia, there's a feeling that the weight of retribution should fall on the shoulders of Taylor," said Simon Cooper, a human rights worker in north-western Liberia, close to the border with Sierra Leone.

"I hear people saying he should go to jail and never come out," he said. "People are still traumatized after both conflicts, but the important thing to remember is that Taylor was also part of a system that came to function during war. The court proved that he did not create the system," Cooper said.

Shabas said the prosecution's demand for an 80-year sentence was "purely symbolic" and "unprecedented".

"Perhaps that was based on what the prosecution tried to prove rather than what they did prove," he said.

Depending on the strength of tomorrow's sentence, an appeal is expected from either the prosecution or the defence.

Taylor is likely to spend his jail term in a British maximum security prison, although the defence has said the 64-year-old should be imprisoned closer to Africa in order to allow him to maintain relations with his family, which includes 15 biological children.


Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


3 sports games you have to watch this weekend

Whether it’s date night or a braai with buddies, plan around these three exciting sporting games!



Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro
Hottie of the day: Colette

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


“To infinity and beyond”….. As the Sun and the Moon move into Sagittarius you are able to let go of the emotional intensity of the...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.