On 30 May 2012, Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his role in the civil war in Sierra Leone. The conflict, which devastated the country between 1991 and 2002, left more than fifty thousand people dead, and was marked by mass amputations, widespread sexual violence, and the use of child soldiers. In return for supplying guns to the perpetrators of these terrible crimes, Charles Taylor received hundred’s of millions of dollars worth of ‘blood diamonds’.
Prosecutors at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a UN-backed international tribunal held in the Netherlands, had requested that he receive 80 years. However, given that he is 64 years old, a 50-year sentence is still effectively a life sentence.
According to press reports, the sentence has been broadly welcomed in Sierra Leone, so let’s hope that it helps the survivors to draw a line under this terrible episode in human history, and offers them at least some measure of justice.
Mr Taylor is due to serve his sentence in the UK prison system, although it may be some time until he arrives in the UK since he is widely expected to appeal his sentence.