Arusha, August 28, 2013 (FH) – The Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) will hand down its judgment on September 26 in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, the first ex-head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials.

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The judgment will be delivered at 11.00 local time in The Hague, where the trial has taken place. It will also be streamed live to the SCSL court house in Freetown, Sierra Leone, according to a Special Court press release available on its website.

On April 26, 2012, Charles Taylor was found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Sierra Leone during that country’s civil war. A month later, the judges sentenced him to 50 years in jail. Both defence and prosecution filed appeals, and an appeals hearing was held on January 22 and 23.

According to the judges of the lower court, Taylor knew that rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were committing crimes against the civilian population, but he nevertheless armed, supported and financed the rebels. His aim, according to the judges, was to obtain control of Sierra Leone, in order to exploit its diamond wealth. The judges found, however, that Taylor was not the head of the RUF, thus rejecting part of the Prosecutor’s arguments. The head of the RUF, the court found, was Foday Sankoh, who died in the SCSL’s Freetown prison in 2003 before being tried.

In their appeal, Taylor’s lawyers argued that the lower court judges made systematic errors in the evaluation of evidence. Although they did not deny Taylor lent support to the RUF, they said his aim was not the perpetration of the crimes for which he was convicted. The defence also argued that the 50 year prison sentence was “manifestly unreasonable”.

In their appeal, prosecutors argued for a heavier sentence, among other things.

The trial opened in June 2007, on the basis of an indictment issued in June 2003. The indictment remained confidential until August that year, when Taylor agreed to step down after obtaining political asylum in Nigeria. He was nevertheless arrested in that country in March 2006.

The Netherlands agreed to host the trial at the request of the new Liberian president,Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who feared that a trial in Sierra Leone could destabilize the region. But the Netherlands’ agreement came with the condition that Taylor, if convicted, should serve his sentence in another country and the UK agreed to take him. So if the verdict is confirmed, the former head of state will be sent to London.

Taylor was President of Liberia from 1997 to 2003. He is the first ex-head of state to be convicted by an international court since Karl Dönitz, who succeeded Adolf Hitler at the end of the Second World War. Dönitz was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced in 1946 to 10 years in jail for war crimes.