Charles Taylor at the court in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Wednesday. — Reuters
THE HAGUE — Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was Wednesday jailed for 50 years for helping Sierra Leonean rebels wage a savage war, receiving a precedent-setting sentence from a special war crimes court.
Taylor, the first head of state convicted by an international court since World War Two, had been found guilty of backing rebels who murdered, raped and mutilated tens of thousands of people in an 11-year war that ended in 2002.
Amputees who are still struggling to lead normal lives years after they were mutilated by the rebels backed by Taylor, hailed the decision. “He has done bad things to us,” said 22-year-old amputee Sento Thoronka of Taylor, as she attempted to cut weeds using only her right arm. Her left arm was hacked off by the RUF, a common terror tactic by the group, which was backed by Taylor, in return for blood diamonds.
“There is nothing someone can say to me that will ever make me forget what he did, because when I look at myself I look odd. I’ll never feel fine about that,” she said.
Presiding judge Richard Lussick said there was no legal precedent by which to determine a sentence, but the term was intended to reflect Taylor’s position of authority. Prosecutors had demanded 80 years.
“He was found responsible for aiding and abetting some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded history,” he said, reading out the sentencing.“Leadership must be car ried out by example by the prosecution of crimes not the commission of crimes.”
The sentence is intended to “underscore the gravity it attached to the betrayal of public trust.”
Dressed in a blue suit and yellow tie, Taylor sat impassively through the roughly 45-minute reading at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Hands clasped in front of his mouth and his brow furrowed, Taylor shifted uneasily when the camera broadcasting proceedings settled on him. — Agencies