23 July 2012

Liberia: Taylor Appeals

Photo: RNW
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

Liberia's ex-president Charles Taylor has appealed against his conviction and 50-year jail sentence, intended to be served in a British jail, after he was convicted of war crimes in Sierra Leone, according to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

"Charles Taylor appeals against the judgment and the sentencing judgment... and respectfully requests that (the) appeals chamber reverse all the convictions entered against him," according to the defense request made public last Thursday by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Taylor was found guilty in April of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierra Leone, for aiding and abetting "some of the most heinous crimes in human history," the international court said.

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

The former warlord was sentenced in May to 50 years in jail after his conviction on 11 counts for arming Sierra Leone's rebels in return for "blood diamonds" during the war that claimed 120,000 lives.

In the appeal document, Taylor's defence said the court had made "systematic errors" in evaluating evidence, and relied on "uncorroborated hearsay evidence as the sole basis for specific incriminating findings of fact".

The prosecution, which had sought an 80-year jail term for Taylor, has also appealed, according to the court, which is based outside The Hague.

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 as well as forced children to fight and keep sex slaves.

Taylor, 64, maintained his innocence during the trial where scores of high-profile witnesses, including British supermodel Naomi Campbell, testified.

After serving as president of Liberia 1997-2003, Taylor was arrested in March 2006 while attempting to flee from exile in Nigeria where he took asylum after he was forced to quit power in 2003 under international pressure to end the civil war in Liberia.

He was transferred to The Hague in 2006 due to fears that trying him in Freetown would pose a security threat.

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