Charles Taylor was sentenced to fifty years in prison today by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. The former Liberian President was found guilty on eleven counts last month including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, outrages upon personal dignity, cruel treatment, other inhumane acts, conscripting or enlisting of child soldiers, enslavement and pillage.
The judges cited Taylor’s abuse of his position as a member of the ECOWAS Committee of Five and the extra-territoriality of his acts as aggravating factors in his sentencing. Taylor’s good behavior during imprisonment was the only mitigating factor the judges chose to consider. Taylor’s lawyers were holding out for a sentence that would give Taylor a realistic hope of being freed one day. Prosecutors were asking for an even harsher eighty year sentence and are considering an appeal. They implored the court not to give war criminals a ‘volume discount’. The fifty year sentence is an effective life sentence for the sixty-four year old Taylor.
Has the court achieved justice? Was the cost worth it? This criticism from Chief Charles. A. Taku, Pan-African Visions rings true with many in the region:
“For a majority of Sierra Leoneans, the amount of money spent in conducting these trials should have been used to solve the myriad of development problems that the country is facing as well as to alleviate the pain and suffering of the victims of the unfortunate conflict, most of who still live in abject penury.“
But for those who are victims of Taylor’s brutality, the justice dispensed today is priceless. In a comment today on the Open Society and Justice Initiative’s website The Trial of Charles Taylor amputee and torture victim David Anyaele (who has gone on to become Executive Director of the Amputees Rehabilitation Foundation) expressed his gratitude:
“I received the news of the sentencing of Charles Taylor to 50 years jail-term with gratitude. I thank the persecuting team for a job well done. Mr. Charles Taylor will see Africa no more but garnish his teeth in prison.
When Captain Goldteeth was amputated my hands, pour fuel and set me on fire beside the cemetery at Shell bus stop, Kessy bye pass, Freetown he never knew that I will survive.
To God be the glory for making it possible for me to see this day. The Bible says though it tarries wait for it, it will surely come. To all our partners around the world I say a big thank you, most especially, OSJI for their consistence in following up on CT issue.
I call on Nigerian government to take adequate measure to identify, rehabilitate, reintegrate and reinstitute all Nigerian victims of Charles Taylor atrocities in Liberia and Sierra Leone.“