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May 30, 2012

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for war crimes

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for war crimes

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Liberia
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Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, has been today handed a 50-year sentence for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone. The court previously held he financed a war which left an estimated 50,000 dead.

A school destroyed by RUF rebels.
Image: Laura Lartigue.

Taylor, 64, is considered likely to remain incarcerated for life if the sentence stands, but his legal team has vowed to appeal. The prosecution sought an 80-year sentence. Taylor’s is the first conviction of a head of state by an international tribunal since the fallout from World War Two, when the Nuremberg trials were underway.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is operating from the Netherlands to avoid unrest if Taylor were tried in Africa, spent more than a year deliberating before convicting Taylor last month. Acquitted of ordering crimes or of acting in a joint enterprise to conduct them, he was nonetheless convicted of aiding and abetting the offences. There were 94 prosecution witnesses and 21 for the defence.

The allegations date to civil war in Sierra Leone, which ran from 1991 to 2002. Taylor, who had been a warlord since the ’80s, backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was elected Liberian president in 1997 after a different civil war concluded.

Six years later he was ousted when an arrest warrant was issued and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 whilst again trying to flee and went on trial later that year. Taylor, who had been facing a rebellion against him since 1999 in Liberia, received training from late Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Testimony included claims that Taylor-backed fighters adorned roads with human intestines and ate human flesh. One claimed to have seen Taylor himself eat human liver, something Taylor denied. One described asking RUF rebels to sever his only hand in exchange for his young son’s life.

Further allegations said teenage children were involved in the fighting and that Taylor sold illegally mined diamonds to finance arms purchases for the RUF. Western celebrities Naomi Campbell, a model, and Mia Farrow, an actress, described an incident at a charity dinner held by Nelson Mandella, then South Africa’s head, in 1997. Campbell and Farrow said Taylor gifted Campbell a number of diamonds. Taylor is claimed to have ordered seizure of Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits by RUF soldiers.

It was claimed in court that child soldiers were used in conflict, as diamond mine guards, and to carry out amputations. Allegations of forced amputation were made. Taylor was convicted in late April of aiding and abetting forcing amputation, as well as rape, murder, child soldier recruitment, sexual slavery, and pillaging.

The court’s panel of judges, presided over by Judge Richard Lussick, heard a 30-minute address by Taylor at an earlier sentencing hearing. “I express my sadness and sympathy for crimes suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone,” said Taylor, adding he acted “with honour” and as a peacemaker, asking for “reconciliation, not retribution” in sentencing. Taylor also gave evidence at his own trial, spending seven months of testimony saying he strove for peace in the region.

Lussick noted the panel felt 80 years to be excessive given that Taylor was cleared of directly carrying out offences. However, the court found other factors aggravated the case: In particular, he was a head of state. “Leadership must be carried out by example by the prosecution of crimes, not the commission of crimes,” Lussick said in court. “The special status of Mr. Taylor as a head of state puts him in a different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing,” the judge said, with the convict “in a class of his own”.

“[His] positions both as president of Liberia and within the west African regional bodies distinguish him from any other individual that has appeared before this court,” Prosecutor Brenda Hollis said at a sentencing hearing. “Taylor’s abuse of his authority and influence is especially egregious given that west African leaders repeatedly entrusted him with a role to facilitate peace.” She had claimed “No significant mitigating circumstances exist in this case.”

Lussick also told the court today Taylor stood convicted of “aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history”. “The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of his actions.” These were, the court said, crimes of the “utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality”. The prosecution had claimed Taylor followed no more motivation beyond simple greed and power lust. Lussick said today the judges were unanimous in imposing a term of 50 years.

The defence had called for a sentence that gave Taylor a realistic prospect of eventual release. They also noted he is set to be sent to the United Kingdom to serve sentence. The defendant would be “culturally isolated”, facing a “punishment within a punishment”. At least one war crimes convict has been attacked in prison in the UK, and it is anticipated Taylor will end up in a high-security prison after the UK Foreign Office has promised to uphold an agreement to imprison him there made by ex-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

“The sentence is clearly excessive, clearly disproportionate to his circumstances, his age and his health and does not take into account the fact that he stepped down from office voluntarily,” said counsel for the accused Morris Anya. The prosecution may also appeal the sentencing, and the verdict itself with intent to increase Taylor’s convictions beyond merely aiding and abetting. The defence also intends to appeal the verdict.

The appeals process means Taylor is likely to remain at The Hague for several months, where the court has been holding sessions in nearby Leidschendam. He is the last defendant to face trial before the Special Court, which has previously convicted and sentenced eight other prominent figures in the conflict.



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April 26, 2012

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor convicted in war crimes trial

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor convicted in war crimes trial

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Liberia
Other stories from Liberia
  • 31 January 2015: US soldier who died after serving in Liberia tests negative for Ebola
  • 3 October 2014: Texas governor and health officials address public regarding Ebola case
  • 10 September 2014: WHO warns of thousands of new Ebola cases
  • 11 August 2014: WHO declares Ebola outbreak an international emergency
  • 12 April 2014: Spain’s men remain on top of FIFA global rankings for April 2014
…More articles here
Location of Liberia

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To write, edit, start or view other articles on Liberia, see the Liberia Portal
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Former President of Liberia Charles Taylor was today found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands. Taylor was acquitted of actually ordering the offences or being part of a joint enterprise to conduct them.

A school destroyed by RUF rebels.
Image: Laura Lartigue.

The eleven-count indictment produced a four-year trial that heard allegations of rape, murder, sexual slavery, cannibalism, arms dealing, “blood” diamond trade, and use of child soldiers. Prosecution witnesses totalled 94 whilst the defence had 21 including the accused. Taylor spent his seven months of evidence claiming he was a peacemaker.

The allegations date to civil war in Sierra Leone, which ran from 1991 to 2002. Taylor, who had been a warlord since the ’80s, backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was elected Liberian president in 1997 after a different civil war concluded.

Six years later he was ousted when an arrest warrant was issued and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 whilst again trying to flee. Taylor, who had been facing a rebellion against him since 1999 in Liberia, had received training from Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Testimony included claims that Taylor-backed fighters adorned roads with human intestines and ate human flesh. One claimed to have seen Taylor himself eat human liver, something Taylor denied. One described asking RUF rebels to sever his only hand in exchange for his young son’s life.

Further allegations said teenage children were involved in the fighting and that Taylor sold illegally mined diamonds to finance arms purchases for the RUF. Western celebrities Naomi Campbell, a model, and Mia Farrow, an actress, described an incident at a charity dinner held by Nelson Mandella, then South Africa’s head, in 1997. Campbell and Farrow said Taylor gifted Campbell a number of diamonds. Taylor is claimed to have ordered seizure of Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits by RUF soldiers.

It was claimed in court that child soldiers were used in conflict, as diamond mine guards, and to carry out amputations. Allegations of forced amputation were made.

The court, which has spent a year considering its verdicts, unanimously found Taylor guilty. It ruled Taylor knew at least from 1997 the full extent of RUF activities in Sierra Leone, and that he helped bankroll activities dealing in blood diamonds. A judge said more than a thousand youngsters had ‘RUF’ carved into their skin to prevent escape. From the moment he receives the full judgement Taylor has two weeks in which to file an appeal.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International welcomed the verdict, which is the first conviction of a head of state before an international court since the Nuremburg trials prosecuted Nazi leaders after World War Two. Karl Dönitz was convicted after he took brief control of Germany in the aftermath of Adolf Hitler‘s suicide.

Former President of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic faced trial but died before a judgement was handed down. Laurent Gbagbo, once Presldent of the Ivory Coast, is in custody at The Hague awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court. Taylor joins eight other Special Court convicts, all of whom are from Sierra Leone. He is the first African ruler to appear in The Hague.

The Special Court was formed jointly by Sierra Leone’s present administration and the United Nations.

The Netherlands agreed the process could be held there on the condition Taylor did not serve sentence there if convicted. He is expected to be sent to the UK, where Foreign Office has promised to uphold an agreement to imprison him there made by ex-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.



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August 11, 2010

Mia Farrow, Carole White testify in Charles Taylor\’s war crimes trial

Mia Farrow, Carole White testify in Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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Farrow appeared in a UN-backed court at The Hague to testify in a war crimes trial against Taylor.
Image: hdptcar on Flickr.

Actress Mia Farrow and Carole White have testified in former-Liberian president Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Farrow and White’s testimonies contradict supermodel Naomi Campbell‘s testimony from last week.

White said Campbell was “mildly flirtatious” with Taylor at a dinner in South Africa in 1997. Taylor, she alleged, told Campbell he would send her diamonds. White continued to say Campbell communicated with Taylor and awaited the diamond. Campbell was “very excited” about the diamonds according to White.

“[Taylor’s men] came in and they sat down in the lounge and we sat opposite them… they then took out a quite scruffy paper and they handed it to Miss Campbell and said ‘these are the diamonds.'”

Farrow claimed Campbell told her Taylor received diamonds in the middle of the night. She testified, “[Campbell] said that in the night she had been awakened, some men were knocking at the door, and they had been sent by Charles Taylor, and they had given her a huge diamond.”

Last week in Campbell’s testimony, she did not know who sent her diamonds, but testified her then-agent White told her who probably sent the diamonds. White and Farrow testified Campbell said the diamonds were from Taylor. She claims she gave the diamonds to Jeremy Ractliffe who gave them to police.

Police spokesperson Musa Zondi confirms Ractliffe had uncut diamonds. “Yes, they are real diamonds. We cannot tell whether they are ‘blood diamonds‘ or not. That will be part of the investigation,” Zondi said.

Taylor faces eleven counts for violating international law including, murder, rape, sexual slavery, enlistment of children under the age of fifteen, pillaging, enslavement, and “outrages upon personal dignity.”

Taylor allegedly traded “blood diamonds” for weapons and supplying the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone with weapons during the civil war from 1991 to 2002. This war conscripted child soldiers, an international crime. The prosecutors for the Special Court say Taylor trained the rebels and had them rape, murder, mutilate, and decapitate the civilians of Sierra Leone. Over 100,000 people died in the Sierra Leonean civil war. Taylor plead not guilty to all charges.

Linking the blood diamonds, used to support the RUF, to Taylor is a high priority for the prosecution.



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  • “Campbell testifies against former Liberian president” — Wikinews, August 5, 2010

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November 4, 2009

Sierra Leone rebel convicts sent to Rwandan jail

Sierra Leone rebel convicts sent to Rwandan jail

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

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Sierra Leone has transferred eight convicted former rebel leaders to Rwanda’s Mpanga prison to serve out their sentences.

Eight former rebels, convicted of atrocities committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, have been transferred to a Rwandan prison to serve their sentences.

Last Sunday, the convicts were sent to Rwanda’s Mpanga prison, a facility that meets the minimum international standards for incarceration. The prisoners included both rebel and loyalist militia leaders, convicted of war crimes, including amputation, enlisting child soldiers, and sexual slavery.

The acting registrar for Sierra Leone’s Special Court, Binta Mansaray, said that there are no prisons in Sierra Leone that meet international standards. However, Rwanda is able and willing to enforce the sentences.

“They have excellent facilities as far as a prison is concerned,” Mansaray said. “Whereas in Sierra Leone, while the country is moving in the right direction in terms of strengthening democratic institutions, especially the security sector, we have been advised by past governments that the country is not yet in a position to enforce sentences due to weak institutional arrangements.”

Rwanda established the Mpanga prison to accommodate prisoners convicted of war crimes committed during the 1994 genocide. In March, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda signed an agreement with its fellow Special Court to hold prisoners convicted by the Sierra Leonean tribunal.



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