African warlord Charles Taylor was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years in prison by an international criminal court for his role in atrocities that took place during the civil war in Sierra Leone during the 1990s.
According to the New York Times, Taylor, the former president of Liberia, was found guilty of aiding and abetting and planning some of the “most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”
Sentenced near The Hague in the Netherlands, Taylor was the first head of state convicted by an international criminal court since the Nuremberg trials after World War II. The trials lasted six years and a panel of judges saw more than 115 witnesses.
In April, Taylor was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Taylor was convicted of instigating mass brutality that led to murder, rape, the use of child soldiers, the mutilation of thousands of citizens and the mining of diamonds to pay for guns and ammunition.
Judges agreed that the diamonds were used to pay for weapons that went to Taylor’s army. During the trial, supermodel Naomi Campbell took the stand to testify against Taylor. Campbell received an uncut diamond from the warlord after meeting him at a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela.
The panel was made of judges from Ireland, Samoa and Ireland. Prosecutors were hoping for an 80-year sentence, and are aiming to appeal to the court in hopes of a stricter sentence. Members of the defense are also looking to appeal, arguing that the sentence is excessive and “disproportionate to his circumstances.”
Witnesses included victims of the crimes, associates and aides of Taylor. One aide described a bonding ritual in which Taylor and several others ate a human heart.
If his sentence is carried out, it is likely that Taylor, 64, will spend the rest of his life in prison. Two rebel commanders were also sentenced to 50 and 52 years.
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