Judges rejected all mitigating factors. Samoan Judge Richard Lussick, who was presiding over the sentencing, declared that “leadership must be carried out by example by the prosecution of crimes, not the commission of crimes”.
Taylor’s Defence lawyers immediately announced that they would appeal the sentence. If confirmed, the term would be equivalent to a life sentence, Charles Taylor being 64.
Prosecutors had sought an even longer sentence of 80 years.
Courtenay Griffiths, head of the defence team, had tried to undermine the prosecution’s contention that Charles Taylor was a key figure or main planner in the violence in Sierra Leone. He said the defence was not contesting the events, but Taylor played “a more modest role”.
In mitigating factors, Griffiths pointed out that Taylor’s crimes were mainly committed in a relatively short period during the civil war, that Taylor was a key player in the peace process in Sierra Leone and that he had voluntarily stepped down from power in order to save his country from more atrocities.
Taylor was convicted on 26 April 2012 on all 11 counts of an indictment alleging war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
Taylor was indicted in June 2003 but the arrest warrant remained secret until he agreed to leave power in August 2003, after being granted political asylum by Nigeria. In March 2006, he was nevertheless arrested in Nigeria and transferred to the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The trial opened in June 2007. The Dutch government agreed to host the trial following a request from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who feared instability in Liberia if Taylor were tried in Sierra Leone. The Netherlands agreed on the basis that if Taylor were convicted he would serve his sentence elsewhere. The UK agreed to take him.