Liberian warlord Taylor gets 50 years for crimes
Charles Taylor, the warlord who became president of Liberia and one of the most bloodstained figures in African history, received a 50-year jail term yesterday for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.
Taylor (pictured), the first former head of state to face international justice since the Nuremberg trials, stood rigid and emotionless as punishment was imposed.
He will serve his sentence in Britain, where he is expected to be a "category A" inmate fit only for a maximum-security prison. If so, the cost to the British taxpayer will be about £100,000 (€125,000) per year.
Taylor's humbling caused jubilation in Sierra Leone, where he fuelled a brutal civil war during his time as president of neighbouring Liberia. Last month, a United Nations Special Court found that Taylor had given weapons, money, bases and recruits to a rebel army which laid waste to Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002.
This ragtag force, styling itself the Revolutionary United Front, specialised in hacking the arms and legs off its victims. Taylor helped the RUF in return for "blood diamonds" taken illegally from Sierra Leone's mines.
That made him responsible for "aiding and abetting" the war crimes, the court found.
"His punishment is very welcome news," said Mohammed Samoura, a former editor of the Sierra Leone news agency, who lives in the capital, Freetown. "But some people here feel the sentence is too short."
On January 6, 1999, the RUF launched a bloody onslaught against Freetown, reaching the heart of the capital and mutilating their victims in the city's streets.
The court found that Taylor had sent Liberians to fight alongside the RUF during this assault.
"When you take into consideration all the suffering and atrocities in this country, the average man feels the 50-year sentence is very light," added Mr Samoura, noting that the prosecution had recommended 80 years. "Most people were saying they were disappointed as they wanted a death sentence."
Taylor (64) has the option of appealing against the sentence. (© Daily Telegraph, London)