A special tribunal is set to sentence former Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone will hand down its sentence Wednesday in The Hague, with prosecutors asking for an 80-year prison term. Taylor’s defense has recommended the punishment not amount to an effective life sentence for the 64-year-old.
The court convicted Taylor last month on all 11 counts of an indictment that included charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, recruitment of child soldiers and enslavement.
The court found Taylor did not have command and control of rebels who carried out abuses during Sierra Leone’s civil war, but was aware of their activities and provided them with weapons and other supplies.
Taylor’s lead defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, said the sentence recommended by prosecutors does not reflect Taylor’s indirect role in the abuses.
“It’s questionable from our point of view whether the imposition of such a long sentence will have any real impact because people will see through the falsity of the reasoning behind the imposition of such a sentence.”
Andie Lambe, international justice team leader for advocacy group Global Witness, said a tough sentence will serve as a deterrent.
“What it will do is it will ensure that people who are eventually held to account and are tried will know that the international community is taking this seriously and will continue to take this seriously, and hopefully if the sentence reflects that, that will also reinforce that position.”
Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, who briefly ruled Nazi Germany after the death of Adolf Hitler.
He told judges at a sentencing hearing earlier this month that he has “deepest sympathies” for those who suffered during Sierra Leone’s brutal, decade-long civil war. But he stopped short of admitting any wrongdoing or apologizing for atrocities committed by rebels he armed in exchange for so-called “blood diamonds” mined in eastern Sierra Leone. VOA