At UN-backed court, Charles Taylor denies role in Sierra Leone atrocities


Convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor told the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) today that he was saddened by the atrocities and crimes committed in Sierra Leone, but denied that he aided the rebels who committed the abuses.

Taylor told judges at his sentencing hearing in The Hague, where the Court is based, that he felt “sadness and deepest sympathy for the atrocities and crimes that were suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone.”

He asked that “reconciliation and healing and not retribution should be the guiding principles in your honours’ task” in determining his sentence, UN News Service reports.

Last month, the SCSL handed down a guilty verdict against Taylor for planning, aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. He had been on trial on 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including pillage, slavery for forced marriage purposes, collective punishment and the recruitment and use of child soldiers, related to the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s.

The Court will deliver its sentencing judgement on Wednesday, 30 May.

In their April 26 judgement, the SCSL judges ruled that Taylor had participated in planning the rebel attacks on Kono, Makeni and Freetown between December 1998 and February 1999, and that he had instructed the rebels to “make the operation fearful.”

They also convicted him on all counts for aiding and abetting the rebels in the commission of crimes during the war in Sierra Leone by providing arms and ammunition, military personnel, operational support and moral support.

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis, for her part, today said that Mr. Taylor was a “willing and enthusiastic participation” in the crimes, and that his “leadership positions and betrayal of positions of trust” were sufficient to justify a long sentence, which would “reflect the essential role that Mr. Taylor played in crimes of such extreme scope and gravity.” She has recommended that Mr. Taylor serves an 80-year term in prison.

The SCSL was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since 30 November 1996.