Charles Taylor appeals war crimes convictions

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor on Jan. 22 began his appeal in The Hague against his conviction and 50-year sentence for war crimes committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone. Taylor's 42-point appeal states that the the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) made "systematic errors" in evaluating evidence and relied on hearsay testimony of the 94 prosecution witnesses as the basis for its fact-finding.

The former leader was sentenced to 50 years in prison in May after he was convicted of war crimes a month earlier. He was accused of planning as well as aiding and abetting crimes committed by rebel forces in exchange for diamonds during the civil war, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces, enslavement and pillage.

Specifically Taylor was convicted of 11 counts for arming Sierra Leone's rebels in return for "blood diamonds" during the war. On appeal the prosecution is asking the court to overturn Taylor's acquittal on charges that he actively issued orders to the rebels, and increase Taylor's sentence to 80 years. At the original sentencing hearing Taylor claimed he had "sadness and deepest sympathy for the atrocities and crimes suffered in Sierra Leone" but that he was not responsible for actions taken by rebel forces during the decade-long civil war that claimed 120,000 lives.

From Jurist, Jan. 22. Used with permission.