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War Crimes Sentence Upheld Against Liberian Ex-President

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor waits for the start of his appeal judgment at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands, on Thursday.
Koen van Weel
Associated Press

A 50-year prison sentence handed to Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia convicted of war crimes, has been upheld by a judge at The Hague.

Taylor, 65, had appealed the sentence handed down in May by a special court in the Netherlands, following his conviction on charges that he "aided and abetted" atrocities in Sierra Leone by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. The rebels carried out a campaign of murder, rape and mutilation during the country's long civil war.

"The sentence is fair in the light of the totality of the crimes committed," Justice George Gelaga King, who is himself from Sierra Leone, said Thursday.

Taylor was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes that included torture and enslavement of child soldiers. The Telegraph says:

"These offences were carried out in Sierra Leone by a brutal guerrilla army, styling itself the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor gave the RUF guns, training and recruits in return for diamonds — which made him responsible for 'aiding and abetting' their atrocities, ruled the UN Special Court."

The Guardian adds:

"The decision by the court means that the 65-year-old is likely to be sent to the UK to serve out the rest of his life in a British jail.

"There had been speculation that the tribunal could overturn Taylor's convictions, following stricter precedents set in the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia about what constitutes 'aiding and abetting.' A series of recent judgments in that court required proof that senior military commanders had 'specifically directed' atrocities.

"But the judges in the Sierra Leone tribunal dismissed the Balkans precedents as irrelevant and said Taylor had known at the time that atrocities were going to be committed by rebel forces attacking the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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