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Taylor's sentence hailed

Publish date: 05 June 2012
Issue Number: 481
Diary: Legalbrief Africa Old
Category: Liberia

Judges at an international war crimes court last week sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison for war crimes during the long-running civil war in Sierra Leone.

The Guardian reports that Taylor was last month found guilty on 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity by supporting rebels between 1996 and 2002 in return for conflict diamonds. He was convicted of offences including murder, rape, s exual slavery, recruiting child soldiers, enforced amputations and pillage, according to the report. It notes Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor's crimes were of the 'utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality'. The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in The Hague cannot impose capital punishment or life imprisonment but prosecutors had called for Taylor to be given an 80-year prison term. The report notes that Taylor's sentence is likely to be served in the UK. Full report in The Guardian

A defence barrister to Taylor says that the former Liberian leader's trial for war crimes was deeply flawed. A report on the site notes that Taylor was the first African leader to be found guilty of war crimes by an international tribunal and his sentence came weeks before the 10th anniversary of the International Criminal Court (ICC). 'I am a newcomer to international criminal law,' the Jamaican-born barrister is quoted in the report as saying. 'Until the Charles Taylor case I had never practised in that field, I'd never studied it, and I was asked to take on the Charles Taylor case based solely on my background as a criminal defence advocate.' He said international criminal law is not about law, but rather 'about the politics of power'. 'If you examine all the cases before the ICC and indeed the particular case that I was involved in with Charles Taylor, you see - behind the scenes - a hidden hand or hands manipulating the legal process for their own benefit.' Griffiths' concerns are shared by the Special Court's reserve Judge Justice El Hadji Malick Sow, who interrupted the proceedings to voice opposition, but his microphone was cut off as he spoke. Sow warned that the international justice system was 'in grave danger of losing all credibility', according to the report. Full report on the site

Taylor's forces were just pushing into Liberia five days before an American journalist's wedding day; a few months later she offered her home as shelter to her servants, but was forced by the US to leave the country. In a Christian Science Monitor article, Lynda Schuster welcomes the 50-year jail term. She recalls how Taylor invaded his home country of Liberia in December 1989, in an attempt to unseat the then-dictator, Samuel Doe. That was five days before her wedding to a US diplomat, Dennis Jett, who was the deputy-ambassador at the US embassy in Monrovia. She said Taylor hacked his way through the country in what became a civil war of remarkable brutality. 'After a while, the original aim of the conflict - the ousting of the president, the defence of the government, the primacy of the tribe - ceased to matter; only the killing counted.' Full Christian Science Monitor column