20 July 2012

Liberia: Taylor Formally Files Appeals

Photo: RNW
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

Former President Charles Taylor has formally filed an appeal against his conviction and 50-year jail sentence for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone, the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone said Thursday.

"Charles Taylor appeals against the judgment and the sentencing judgment... and respectfully requests that (the) appeals chamber reverse all the convictions entered against him by the Trial Chamber," the defense request copies of which were forwarded to this paper by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone said.

Taylor was found guilty in April and sentenced to 50-year jail on May 30 for "aiding and abetting" the brutal Sierra Leone civil war from 1991-2001.

He was the first former head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials in 1946.

Taylor's lawyers cited "systematic errors" made by the court in evaluating evidence, adding that it relied on "uncorroborated hearsay evidence as the sole basis for specific incriminating findings of fact".

"Each error of law alleged in this Notice of Appeal invalidates the decision of the Trial Chamber," the defense Appeal document said, adding "Likewise, each error of fact alleged herein, individually and cumulatively gives rise to a miscarriage of justice."

The defense said in "respect to each error of fact, it is maintained that no reasonable Trier of fact would have render the particular finding of fact beyond reasonable doubt." The defense further noted that each procedural error alleged which affects the fairness of the trail, occasions a miscarriage of justice.

"Unless otherwise specified, the defense argued, "the relief sought in relation to each error of law fact or procedure ...is a reversal of the relevant findings of the Trial Chamber, the quashing of any resulting convictions and where appropriate, vacatur of judgment."

The prosecution, which had sought an 80-year jail term for Taylor, has also appealed, according to the court. The court had found that Taylor was paid in diamonds mined in areas under the control of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels, who murdered, raped and mutilated their victims while forcing children to fight and keeping sex slaves.

Taylor, 64, maintained his innocence during the trial which saw a number of high-profile witnesses testify including British supermodel Naomi Campbell.

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