Thursday, May 17, 2012

Special Court for Sierra Leone: Sentencing Hearing for Charles Taylor

Convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor told the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) yesterday that he felt “sadness and deepest sympathy for the atrocities and crimes that were suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone.”  But he also denied responsibility and asked the judges to use “reconciliation and healing and not retribution" as their guiding principles in determining his sentence.

Last month, the SCSL handed down a guilty verdict against Mr. Taylor for planning, aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. He had been on trial on 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment and the recruitment and use of child soldiers, related to the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s.

The Court will deliver its sentencing judgement on Wednesday, May 30, 2012.

The SCSL judges ruled in April that Mr. Taylor had participated in planning the rebel attacks on Kono, Makeni and Freetown between December 1998 and February 1999, and that he had instructed the rebels to “make the operation fearful.”  They also convicted him on all counts for aiding and abetting the rebels in the commission of crimes during the war in Sierra Leone by providing arms and ammunition, military personnel, operational support and moral support.

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis told the tribunal that Mr. Taylor was a “willing and enthusiastic participation” in the crimes, and that his “leadership positions and betrayal of positions of trust” were sufficient to justify a long sentence, which would “reflect the essential role that Mr. Taylor played in crimes of such extreme scope and gravity.” She has recommended that Mr. Taylor serves an 80-year term in prison.

The SCSL was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since November 30, 1996.

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

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