Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor is escorted at the Freetown, Sierra Leone, airport on his way to the Netherlands in 2006.
Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor is escorted at the Freetown, Sierra Leone, airport on his way to the Netherlands in 2006.

Story highlights

The former Liberian president was convicted of war crimes

Prosecutors say he deserves an 80-year sentence for the conviction

Taylor aided fighters in a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone

CNN —  

The defense for Charles Taylor is expected to submit its counter-recommendation Thursday after prosecutors said the former Liberian president deserves an 80-year sentence for a war crimes conviction.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor should receive an 80-year sentence for his conviction for aiding and abetting war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone’s civil war, the chief prosecutor in the international court case recommended Thursday.

“Should the trial chamber decide to impose a global sentence, 80 years’ imprisonment would be appropriate,” said a signed statement by Brenda Hollis, chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, according to the court’s press and outreach officer.

“The recommended sentence is appropriate to reflect the essential role that Mr. Taylor played in crimes of such extreme scope and gravity,” said the prosecutor’s report. “It also reflects the critical and unique contributions Mr. Taylor made to the crimes. But for Charles Taylor’s criminal conduct, thousands of people would not have had limbs amputated, would not have been raped, would not have been killed. Further, the recommended sentence provides fair and adequate response to the outrage these crimes caused in victims, their families and relatives, the Sierra Leonean people and the world at large.”

“But for Charles Taylor’s criminal conduct, thousands of people would not have had limbs amputated, would not have been raped, would not have been killed,” Hollis said. “The recommended sentence provides fair and adequate response to the outrage these crimes caused in victims, their families and relatives.”

Last week’s landmark ruling by the international tribunal was the first war crimes conviction of a former head of state by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War II.

Taylor, 64, was found guilty of all 11 counts of aiding and abetting rebel forces in a campaign of terror that involved murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting children younger than 15 and mining diamonds to pay for guns.

Prosecutors accused Taylor of financing and giving orders to rebels in Sierra Leone’s civil war that ultimately left 50,000 dead or missing. His support for the rebels fueled the bloody war, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors, however, failed to prove that Taylor had direct command over the rebels who committed the atrocities, said Justice Richard Lussick of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

There is no death penalty in international criminal law, and Taylor would serve out any sentence in a British prison.

Taylor has been a pivotal figure in Liberian politics for decades after he overthrew the regime of Samuel Doe in 1989, plunging the country into a bloody civil war that left 200,000 dead over the next 14 years.

That culminated in his trial, which began in 2007 at the special court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands. U.N. officials and the Sierra Leone government jointly set up the tribunal to try those who played the biggest role in the atrocities.

Taylor becomes the first former head of state since Adm. Karl Doenitz, who became president of Germany briefly after Adolf Hitler’s suicide, to be convicted of war crimes or crimes against humanity by an international tribunal.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was tried by an international tribunal but died before a judgment was issued.