THE HAGUE, May 4 – The chief prosecutor in the trial of Charles Taylor has suggested an 80-year sentence after the Liberian former president’s conviction for war crimes, according to a document made public Thursday.
The prosecutor said the term would be fair given Taylor’s role in arming and aiding rebels who killed and mutilated thousands in neighbouring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2001 civil war, one of the most brutal conflicts in modern history.
“Should the trial chamber decide to impose a global sentence, 80 years imprisonment would be appropriate,” said the document, signed by the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis in The Hague.
“The recommended sentence is appropriate to reflect the essential role that Mr Taylor played in crimes of such extreme scope and gravity.”
Taylor, 64, was found guilty by the UN-backed court last week for aiding and abetting war crimes.
In the first judgement against an ex-head of state by a world court since the World War II Nuremberg trials, Taylor was convicted on all 11 counts including acts of terrorism, murder and rape committed by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, who paid him for arms with diamonds mined by slave labour.
Taylor will be sentenced on May 30 by the court, based in the leafy suburb of Leidschendam outside The Hague. Should he get jail time, it will be spent in a British prison.
The hearings, which saw model Naomi Campbell testify she had received diamonds from Taylor, lasted nearly four years, wrapping up in March 2011.
Prosecutors alleged that the RUF paid Taylor with illegally mined so-called blood diamonds worth millions, stuffed into mayonnaise jars.
The rebels would in return get arms and ammunition provided by Taylor.
Prosecutors said “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.”
But during his conviction, judge Richard Lussick did however stress that although Taylor had substantial influence influence over the RUF, including its feared leader Foday Sankoh — who died in 2003 before he could be convicted by the SCSL — “it fell short of command and control” of rebel forces.
Taylor, Liberia’s president from 1997 to 2003, had dismissed the charges as “lies” and claimed to be the victim of a plot by “powerful countries.”
During his own 81 hours of testimony, which began in July 2009, he called the trial a “sham” and denied allegations that he had eaten human flesh.
“These convictions were obtained with corrupt and tainted evidence effectively bought by the prosecution,” his lawyer Courtenay Griffiths said after last week’s verdict.
Prosecutors however said they believed their suggested sentence “provide a fair and adequate response to the outrage these crimes caused in victims, their families… the Sierra Leonian people and the world at large.”
Authorities in Nigeria arrested Taylor in March 2006 and he was transferred to The Hague in 2006 after security fears in the west African country.
During Taylor’s trial which began on June 4, 2007, 94 witnesses took the stand for the prosecution and 21 for the defence.