Arusha, September 26, 2013 (FH) – The Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone today upheld the conviction and 50-year jail sentence of former Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Sierra Leone’s civil war.

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Taylor, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and yellow tie, remained impassive as the judgment was read out. He is expected to serve his sentence in the UK. Presiding judge George Galaga King of Sierra Leone ordered that he remain in the custody of the SCSL “pending final arrangements” for his transfer.

The Appeals Chamber thus threw out the bulk of appeals arguments brought by both the prosecution and defence. Taylor’s lawyers had argued that the lower court judges made systematic errors in the evaluation of evidence and that the 50-year prison sentence was “manifestly unreasonable”.

Prosecutors argued for Taylor to be convicted of planning and instigating as well as aiding and abetting crimes committed by rebels in Sierra Leone.  However, the Appeals Court found that “aiding and abetting fully captures Taylor’s interventions over a period of five years”.

The Court nevertheless granted parts of one defence and one prosecution argument. While it upheld the 50-year sentence, it found the Trial Court had erred in saying that aiding and abetting liability generally warrants a lesser sentence than other forms of liability.

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 of Sierra Leone, 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.

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.