Thursday, 31 May 2012

Charles Taylor's 50 Year sentence

Charles Taylor the former Liberian Dictator has been sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for his role in the harm done in Sierra-leone during the civil war in the 1990

In what was viewed as a watershed case for modern human rights law, Mr. Taylor was the first former head of state convicted by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials in Germany after World War II.
Mr. Taylor was found guilty of “aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history,” said Richard Lussick, the judge who presided over the sentencing here in an international criminal court near The Hague. He said the lengthy prison term underscored Mr. Taylor’s position as a government’s leader during the time the crimes were committed.
“Leadership must be carried out by example, by the prosecution of crimes, not the commission of crimes,” the judge said in a statement read before the court.
If carried out, the sentence is likely to mean that Mr. Taylor, 64, will spend the rest of his life in prison. He looked at the floor after he was asked to stand as the sentence was read.
The chief prosecutor, Brenda Hollis, told a news conference that could be viewed in West Africa: “The sentence today does not replace amputated limbs; it does not bring back those who were murdered,” she said. “It does not heal the wounds of those who were raped or forced to become sexual slaves.”
Mr. Taylor’s legal team said it would file an appeal. “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 Morris Anya, one of Mr. Taylor’s lawyers.
The prosecution, which had sought an even longer sentence of 80 years, said it was considering its own appeal, to raise the level of responsibility attributed to Mr. Taylor for crimes committed under his leadership.
Two rebel commanders tried earlier were handed similar prison sentences of 50 and 52 years, and a prosecutor said Mr. Taylor’s overall responsibility for the atrocities was considerably greater. He did not freely leave office, but was pushed out in 2003 as rebels marched on his capital and a delegation of African leaders urged him to prevent further bloodshed and seek exile in Nigeria.
The court must set a precise prison term; it is not allowed to impose a life sentence or the death penalty.
Outside the courthouse, Salamba Silla, who works with victims’ groups in Sierra Leone, pleaded for more help for former child soldiers, orphans, people whose limbs were hacked off and other victims of the country’s war. “You can see hundreds of them begging on the streets of Freetown,” the capital, she said. “Many who suffered horrendously need help to return to the provinces, they think they cannot survive there.”
Ibrahim Sorie, a lawmaker from Sierra Leone who had been seated in the court’s gallery, said the sentence was fair. “It restores our faith in the rule of law, and we see that impunity is ending for top people,” Mr. Sorie said.
By previous agreement, Mr. Taylor will serve his sentence in a British prison, but since the appeals process is expected to last at least a year, he will remain in the relative comfort of the United Nations’ detention center at The Hague.
After more than a year of deliberations, the Special Court for Sierra Leone found Mr. Taylor guilty in late April of crimes against humanity and war crimes for his part in fomenting widespread brutality that included murder, rape, the use of child soldiers, the mutilation of thousands of civilians and the mining of diamonds to pay for guns and ammunition. Prosecutors have said that Mr. Taylor was motivated in these gruesome actions not by any ideology but rather by “pure avarice” and a thirst for power.

The United Nations-backed tribunal began it work in Sierra Leone, where it tried its other cases, but out of concern that hearings in West Africa would cause unrest among those who still support Mr. Taylor, his trial was moved to the Netherlands.
In Liberia, where Mr. Taylor began a civil war and amassed a record of human rights atrocities during his dictatorial rule, there has not been the political will or the resources to set up a tribunal. The mandate of the Special Court for Sierra Leone covers only crimes between 1996 and 2002, and because the tribunal is to be shut down, critics say that a number of people close to Mr. Taylor have escaped prosecution.

Witnesses who testified at the Taylor trial — which lasted more than twice as long as planned — included men whose hands had been chopped off and women who had been raped. Associates and aides of Mr. Taylor also testified. One aide described a secret bonding ritual in Liberia during which he and others joined Mr. Taylor in eating a human heart.

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