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PUBLISHED: 06:23 EST, 30 May 2012 | UPDATED: 06:47 EST, 30 May 2012
- Former Liberian President, 64, will serve his prison time in a British jail
- Convicted of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone rebels on 10-year rampage
- Funneled arms, ammunition and supplies in return for ‘blood diamonds’
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was today jailed for 50 years for his part in ‘some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history’.
The 64-year-old, who will serve his time in a British jail, was convicted of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone rebels on a savage decade-long rampage that ended in 2002 and killed 50,000.
Judges at an international war crimes court said the warlord-turned-president funneled arms, ammunition and other supplies in return for ‘blood diamonds’ mined using slaves.
Jailed: Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor looks downbeat as his sentence is read out today
Killer: Charles Taylor, pictured here in his heyday, was told his crimes were of the ‘utmost gravity’
Presiding Judge Richard Lussick told Taylor his crimes were of the ‘utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality’.
He added: ‘The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of his actions.’
Taylor is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II and judges said they had no precedent when deciding his sentence.
He looks likely to serve his sentence in a British jail after Tony Blair’s government in 2006 made the offer to resolve a stand-off that had delayed Taylor’s two-year trial.
First: Charles Taylor is the first former head of state convicted by a war crimes court since WWII
Warlord: As president of Liberia from 1997-2003, Taylor was accused of war crimes including the employment of child soldiers, rape and murder in the brutal war against neighbouring Sierra Leone
It will cost UK taxpayers at least £100,000 a year to keep the former Liberian president behind bars.
His lawyers, however, are expected to appeal his convictions and that will likely keep him in a jail in The Hague, Netherlands, for months.
Taylor showed no emotion as Lussick handed down what will effectively be a life sentence.
Prosecutors had asked judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone to impose an 80-year sentence.
But Taylor’s lawyers urged judges to hand down a sentence that offered him some hope of release before he dies.
Lussick said an 80-year sentence would have been excessive as Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting crimes and not direct involvement.
But the judge added that Taylor was ‘in a class of his own’ compared to others convicted by the United Nations-backed court.
RUF soldiers, backed by Taylor, pictured riding in a pick-up truck at their base in the outskirts of Freetown
Maria Tukamara (left) and Marie Koroome (right) both had limbs hacked off by the RUF
A child soldier of the ex-president’s militia in Sierra Leone. Taylor is now awaiting sentencing for war crimes in a special UN court in The Hague
He said: ‘The special status of Mr Taylor as a head of state puts him in a different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing.’
At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, Taylor expressed ‘deepest sympathy’ for the suffering of victims of atrocities in Sierra Leone.
But he insisted he had acted to help stabilise the West Africa region and claimed he never knowingly assisted in the commission of crimes.
He said: ‘What I did…was done with honour. I was convinced that unless there was peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward.’
However, judges ruled that Taylor armed and supplied the rebels in full knowledge they would likely use weapons to commit terrible crimes.
This was in exchange for payments of ‘blood diamonds’ often obtained by slave labour.
Soldiers backed by Charles Taylor wreaked havoc in Sierra Leone so he could obtain blood diamonds
Taylor armed child soldiers who rampaged through Sierra Leone
Prosecutors said there was no reason for leniency, given the extreme nature of the crimes, Taylor’s ‘greed’ and misuse of his position of power.
Prosecutor Brenda Hollis wrote in a brief: ‘The purposely cruel and savage crimes committed included public executions and amputations of civilians.
‘The display of decapitated heads at checkpoints, the killing and public disembowelment of a civilian whose intestines were then stretched across the road to make a check point.
‘Public rapes of women and girls, and people burned alive in their homes.’
Taylor stepped down and fled into exile in Nigeria after being indicted by the court in 2003. He was finally arrested and sent to the Netherlands in 2006.
Claims: Naomi Campbell (right) allegedly accepted a ‘blood diamond’ from the former African despot. She said she was given it by unknown men. Mia Farrow (centre) contradicted this, as did Campbell’s former agent Carole White (left) who said Campbell knew Taylor sent two men to her room to give her the precious stones
While the Sierra Leone court is based in that country’s capital, Freetown, Taylor’s trial is being staged in Leidschendam, a suburb of The Hague, for fear holding it in West Africa could destabilise the region.
One of Taylor’s sons is in jail for torture, another is awaiting trial for murder and two more children were fathered while he was in Dutch custody.
More than 120,000 people were killed and two million displaced in Sierra Leone’s civil war which was characterised by atrocities, the use of enslaved child soldiers and the amputation of children’s limbs as a weapon of terror.
Judgment was passed at the International Court in The Hague
Britain played a vital role in ending the war after Tony Blair sent in 800 troops in May 2000 to evacuate foreign nationals and support Sierra Leone’s fledgling democracy.
The UK troops also assisted in capturing rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, and helped to form a military strategy which forced the Revolutionary United Front to retreat from the capital, Freetown, a former Crown colony.
Pivotal to the case was the evidence of supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Mia Farrow, who provided a clear link between Taylor and blood diamonds he received in payment for arms.
London-born Miss Campbell admitted being given a pouch of uncut gems by the president’s men after a dinner in South Africa.
Taylor is thought to have acquired from the rebels diamonds worth as much as £950million.
Miners from Sierra Leone working in the diamond fields outside Koidu town in Kono district, eastern Sierra Leone