Warlord Charles Taylor loses legal challenge – heading for British jail

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 September 2013

War Lord - Charles TaylorThe former Liberian president Charles Taylor, has today lost his appeal against a 50-year jail term, for war crimes at a special UN-backed tribunal in The Hague.

Taylor will serve a year at a high security Belmarsh Prison in the UK, for every thousand of the 50,000 lives lost, during his eleven year civil war waged against the people of Sierra Leone.

He was last year convicted by judges of aiding and abetting the rebels who murdered, raped and destroyed the lives of innocent citizens in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Rejecting claims by his defence lawyers that the trial judges had misdirected and made legal and factual errors, which they said had prejudiced his chances of a fair trial, Sierra Leonean born Appeal Court Judge – George Gelaga King, earlier today upheld Taylor’s conviction for crimes against humanity.

In January this year, lawyers for the prosecution and defence made their final arguments before the Appeals Chamber at The Hague. The five Judges and one alternate Judge, had heard appeal submissions from the parties, as well as  legal responses and replies.

Taylor’s lawyers had exhausted every ounce of legality they could muster, in order to free or reduce the sentence passed by the court.

charles taylor in courtOn 26 April, 2012, the Trial Chamber had found the West African warlord – Taylor, guilty on all eleven counts of the indictment; that he had participated in the planning of crimes, aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by rebel forces in Sierra Leone.

But few weeks later – on the 30th May, 2012, the Trial Chamber at The Hague sentenced Taylor to a prison term of 50 years, despite his defence presenting 42 grounds of appeal.

They had argued that the trial chamber made systematic errors in the evaluation of evidence as well as in the application of the law – sufficiently serious to “reverse all findings of guilt entered against him” and to vacate the judgement.

Taylor’s defence had also questioned the fairness of the trial and the judicial process itself, challenging the 50 year sentence imposed by the Chamber as being “manifestly unreasonable.”

charles taylor2The prosecution had also appealed the judgement on four grounds, arguing that Mr. Taylor should have been found guilty of other modes of liability, and that he should have received a significantly longer sentence.

For the oral arguments and in response, the Appeals Chamber had asked both the prosecution and the defence to address questions relating to the application of international law to modes of liability; the extent to whether uncorroborated hearsay evidence may be relied upon in determining findings of fact; and how existing jurisprudence relating to adjudicated facts, should be applied to a defence motion to admit adjudicated facts, after the Prosecution had closed their case.

At the end of those proceedings in January this year – 2013, Charles Taylor was allowed to make a statement on his own behalf, and this is what he said:

CHARLES TAYLOR“I’m very appreciative of the handling of the proceedings so far, and I have the belief that the right thing will be done by the grace of Almighty God.”

Today’s landmark judgement for an African head of state, proves that the court did not believe the testimony of Taylor, nor those of his defence.

Taylor will now definitely serve 50 years behind bars at a British prison.

Despite proclaiming his innocence, he was convicted of eleven crimes-  including; aiding and abetting murder, rape, and the use of child soldiers.

Witnesses giving testimony at the trial last year, said he had armed the rebels in exchange for diamonds mined by slave labourers.

Taylor is the first former head of state to be found guilty by an international war crimes court since the Second World War, and for most Sierra Leoneans, today’s judgement serves to warn other heads of state that crimes against humanity will no longer be tolerated.

Reading out the decision of the court this afternoon, which took over an hour to deliver, Justice George Gelaga King concluded that; “The sentence is fair in the light of the totality of the crimes committed.”

“The defence failed to demonstrate any discernible errors in the trial chamber’s sentencing.”

Sealing Taylor’s fate today, Justice Gelaga King finally told Taylor; “The appeal chamber affirms the original 50 years of imprisonment imposed by the trial, and orders this judgement should be enforced immediately.”

Charles Taylor – the former president of Liberia, whose forces terrorised and destroyed the lives of millions of people in Sierra Leone, will now pay a personal price for spearheading a ten year reign of terror and carnage.

He will today start to serve a year for every 1,000 people killed by his soldiers and rebels – a total of 50 years.