Charles Taylor to hear appeal verdict

2013-09-25 22:03
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP) (Charles Taylor)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The Hague - Former Liberian President Charles Taylor will hear on Thursday whether appeals judges uphold or overturn his landmark conviction and 50-year sentence for aiding murderous rebels in Sierra Leone's civil war.

Taylor, 65, became the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II when the Special Court for Sierra Leone found him guilty on 26 April 2012, of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers.

Judges said he provided crucial aid to rebels and helped plan attacks in return for "blood diamonds" mined by slave labourers in Sierra Leone and political influence in the volatile West African region. His conviction was hailed as ushering in a new era of accountability for heads of state.

"The trial and judgment of Charles Taylor sets out a clear marker that even those at the highest levels of power can be held to account," Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

"The Taylor trial, and the Sierra Leone Special Court's work overall, have made a major contribution to justice for brutal crimes committed during Sierra Leone's conflict."

About 50 000 people died in the 11-year civil war that ended in 2002. Thousands more were left mutilated in a conflict that became known for the extreme cruelty of rival rebel groups who gained international notoriety for hacking off the limbs of their victims and carving their groups' initials into opponents.

The rebels developed gruesome terms for the mutilations that became their chilling trademark: They would offer their victims the choice of "long sleeves" or "short sleeves" - having their hands hacked off or their arms sliced off above the elbow.

Taylor was convicted not only of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone rebels from Liberia, but also for actually planning some of the attacks carried out by Sierra Leone rebel groups, the Revolutionary United Front and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.

It isn't clear if the Sierra Leone court's appeal panel will take into account a February appeals judgment by the UN Yugoslav war crimes tribunal that acquitted the former chief of staff of the Yugoslav National Army, General Momcilo Perisic, of aiding forces fighting in a neighbouring country. 

Level of proof

Perisic was freed after appeals judges said it hadn't been proven that he sent supplies to Bosnian Serb forces with the "specific intent" that they be used to commit atrocities.

The ruling was seen as raising the bar on the level of proof needed to uphold such aiding and abetting charges, though the Sierra Leone court isn't bound to follow in the Yugoslav tribunal's footsteps.

Taylor's lawyers say he should be acquitted on all counts. Prosecutors asked appeals judges to rule that he was even more closely involved in the crimes in Sierra Leone than was laid out in his original conviction and urged judges to increase Taylor's sentence to 80 years, saying the 50-year sentence wasn't "reflective of the inherent gravity of the totality of his criminal conduct and overall culpability."

If Taylor's sentence is upheld, he will be transferred to Britain, which has agreed to provide a cell for him.

Taylor's trial was moved from the Special Court of Sierra Leone's headquarters in the capital, Freetown, to the Netherlands because of fears it could destabilize the West African region if held in Sierra Leone.

The Taylor appeals ruling will be the final judgment at the court, which indicted 13 of the main architects of the atrocities in Sierra Leone. Two died before trial and one more remains unaccounted for and possibly dead. Another died before hearing a verdict and all the others were tried and convicted.

The court's trial chamber in Freetown will be converted to house Sierra Leone's Supreme Court in the future. Another part of the court is being turned into a peace museum and its detention facility has been put to use as a prison by local authorities.

Read more on:    charles taylor  |  sierra leone  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X 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
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
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 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.