Liberia's Taylor sentenced to 50 Years in Prison

Reply Wed 30 May, 2012 11:48 am

By Rod Mac Johnson (AFP) – 5 hours ago
FREETOWN — Tears rolled down the face of double amputee Al Hadji Jusu Jarka as he welcomed a 50-year prison term for Liberia's former leader Charles Taylor for backing the Sierra Leone rebels who mutilated him.

"At last, justice has been done and Taylor has paid the price for the suffering and pain he caused us," said Jarka, who wears prosthetic arms after rebels in 1999 cut off both upper limbs while pinning him to a mango tree.

"The curtain has now been drawn on Charles Taylor. I hope he will be haunted by his deeds as he languishes in jail."

Jarka -- who like many in the capital has followed the trial closely -- said he would have liked to see some remorse from Taylor, convicted of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for "blood diamonds".

Taylor's lack of remorse was also highlighted by judge Richard Lussick, who said Taylor therefore should not benefit from any mitigation.

A stunned silence, and a few gasps, filled courtroom buildings in Freetown where hundreds had gathered in front of giant television screens to hear Taylor's fate, being decided at a court outside The Hague.

As the sentence was read out, those watching showed little outward joy. They had sat stonily as Lussick gave a harrowing account of the gruesome crimes committed during the 11-year conflict.

The audience included victims, leaders and civil society representatives.

Human rights activist Charles Mambu said of the sentence: "That's excellent! It shows that it's no longer business as usual. Us, as human rights defenders, we are happy over the sentence."

The government also welcomed the sentence.

"It is a step forward as justice has been done," said Deputy Information Minister Sheku Tarawali, adding that he hoped victims would find relief even "though the magnitude of the sentence is not commensurate with the atrocities committed."

Eldred Collins, a rebel spokesman during the war, is now the chairman of their political offshoot the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP).

He has maintained it was the former RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who died in custody in 2003, who should have had his day in court.

"We still feel Mr Taylor has been judged unfairly and (doesn't) deserve the sentence," he said. "It was the late Foday Sankoh and other Sierra Leoneans that fought the war."

In the Kailahun district - where rebels crossed over from Liberia in 1991 and began their reign of terror on villages -- reactions were of "relief for the Taylor saga to be put behind us", said the paramount chief, Cyril Gando.

Speaking to AFP by telephone, he recalled a phrase uttered by Taylor and often evoked in the country -- an angry Taylor had warned in 1989 that Sierra Leone would "taste the bitterness of war".

Taylor was reacting to west African troops using Sierra Leone as a base from which to head their operations in Liberia as he and his rebels invaded Liberia, sparking that country's 13-year civil war.

"Remember that Taylor once boasted that Sierra Leone will taste the bitterness of war," said Gando. "Now let him taste the bitterness of losing his freedom.

"Rebels for two years, 1999 and 2000, killed many of my people -- including my sons, who were beheaded because they refused to join his rebel group."

In the eastern city of Kenema, town chief Soriba Morlai said he was in a "celebrating mood as it is Taylor's day. We are in total support of the jail term."

The sentence, however, will have little impact on life in the crumbling, hilly capital, where people face a daily struggle to survive.

"What has Taylor got to do with me? The cost of basic foodstuffs continues to rise, and this is what interests me. Taylor got what he deserves, but it is none of my concern," said trader Ina Smith.

However, taxi driver Sayo Sisay exclaimed: "50 years jail? That means Taylor would unlikely leave jail alive."


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Lustig Andrei
Reply Wed 30 May, 2012 12:47 pm

Taylor's 50-year sentence draws mixed reactions in Liberia
Human rights groups welcomed the sentence for Liberia's former president Charles Taylor for his role in Sierra Leone civil war. Some Liberians argued he didn't get fair treatment.

By Clair MacDougall, Correspondent / May 30, 2012

Monrovia, Liberia
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor listened today with his eyes closed as he heard the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands, sentence him to prison for 50 years. Mr. Taylor had been convicted by the Special Court last month for crimes against humanity, and for aiding and abetting Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front in that country's 1991-2001 civil war.
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Global Witness welcomed the sentence as justice for the victims of that war. But here in Liberia's capital of Monrovia, the sentencing attracted little attention. In contrast to last month's verdict, the sentencing was not broadcast live over BBC radio, and only a few men were discussing the issue at tea shops downtown, where men meet to discuss politics.

Chris Lender, a petty trader on Ashmun Street expresses feelings of sadness when he found out that Taylor had been sentenced for 50 years and would in all likelihood spend the rest of his natural life in a British prison.

“He hasn’t been treated fairly," Mr. Lender says. "He won’t be able to see his children and his family before he dies. I want to see him back in Liberia.”

It's hard to know whether Lender's view of Taylor is the norm here in Liberia, a country that went through two brutal civil wars in the early 1990s and the early 2000s. Taylor led a small rebel group that ended up taking control over much of the country, before being elected president in the 1997 elections that followed that first civil war. Few Liberians emerged from these wars untouched, either by their brutality or by the ongoing political loyalties that developed, a fact that makes any future prosecution for Liberian war crimes difficult.

Even current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her work to advance the rights of Liberian women, has been unwilling to broach the possibility of establishing a war crimes court. Some of the members of her own government have been accused of war crimes. In 2009, Ms. Sirleaf herself was barred from running for office, by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, because of her support for Taylor in the early years of the civil war.

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