Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was found guilty of financially aiding rebels that carried out atrocities in his neighboring country of Sierra Leone. He was found guilty and was sentenced to 50 years in prison by The Hague, making him the first former head of state to be convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II. Taylor’s lawyers have put forward 45 grounds of appeal.
With defense lawyers claiming that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice, they are calling for Taylor to be acquitted of his charges on the basis that he was motivated by his greed for diamonds and not blood and that this greed led him to sponsor rebels in Sierra Leone; while stating that his actions may have indirectly lead to the deaths of more than 50 000 people and left many more maimed in a ten year civil war that end in 2002.
Taylor was said to have an arrangement with Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. He would provide them with arms and logistical support and in return he would be paid in ‘conflict’ diamonds. Prosecutors in the meanwhile are urging for Taylor’s 50 year sentence to be upgraded, although practically a life sentence, to be upgraded to an 80 year sentence, to make more of an example of the 62 year old. Judges last year found Taylor guilty of more than 10 war crimes, including the use of child soldiers, rape murder and torture.
Taylor’s lawyers are due to speak later this week, where they will argue that some evidence used against the former president is ‘uncorroborated hearsay’. Taylor was present in court but remained silent. His situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better with presiding Judge Richard Lussick commenting “The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a result of his actions.”