Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years

In the “blood diamond” case, former Liberian president Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison. His was the first conviction of a head of state by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials that followed WWII. He was found guilty by the joint Sierra Leone and UN Special Court for Sierra Leone last month of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court is located in The Hague.

Taylor is 64, and if his entire sentence is carried out, he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. The court is required to set a specific sentence; it cannot prescribe the death penalty or life imprisonment. Taylor is expected to appeal the sentence.

Justice Lussick who read the judgment in court noted that while Taylor’s convictions were for aiding and abetting the commission of crimes and that jurisprudence of the Special Court and related tribunals “holds that aiding and abetting as a mode of liability generally warrants a lesser sentence than that imposed for more direct forms of participation,” Taylor’s leadership role “puts him in a class of his own.” Two rebel commanders tried earlier were sentenced to 50 and 52 years respectively.

In their sentencing, the judges took in to account his good behavior while in detention, while apparently ignoring other mitigating factors proposed by the defense such as his age and health.

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