Press Release / Oct. 10, 2013

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor to serve war crimes sentence in UK

The UK should be applauded for helping the international justice system do its job by agreeing to imprison former Liberian President Charles Taylor after his 50 year sentence for war crimes was upheld in the Hague last week, said Global Witness today.

UK Justice Minister Jeremy Wright confirmed that Taylor will serve his time in the UK, stating that the move was “essential for securing the rights of individuals and states, and for securing peace and reconciliation.”

“This is a landmark moment for international justice, and the UK should be proud to play this part. Charles Taylor used funds from diamonds and timber to brutalise the citizens of Sierra Leone and Liberia, and both countries are still struggling to overcome that legacy. Seeing him locked up will help them turn the page on the past, and build towards a peaceful and prosperous future,” said Natalie Ashworth, Senior Liberia Campaigner at Global Witness.

In April 2012 the Special Court for Sierra Leone found former warlord Taylor responsible for aiding and abetting crimes including pillage, murder and rape during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Taylor appealed after being sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment in May 2012. The Chamber upheld all of the findings of the trial judgement and the conviction of Taylor for planning, aiding and abetting all 11 counts against him, with the exception of crimes he was accused of planning in Kono district, which the Chamber found were not proven. These exceptions did not affect the final sentence, which was upheld.

During the war Taylor trained and armed the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group which became notorious for sexual violence, amputating limbs and recruiting child soldiers. Taylor was elected as president of Liberia in 1997, during a lull in Liberia’s own civil wars, and fled into exile in Nigeria in 2003 at the end of the conflict there.

Taylor’s use of diamonds and timber to fund the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia left both countries with a legacy of misusing their rich natural resources. Both have undertaken major reform programmes, but continue to face difficulties in breaking with the corruption and abuse of the past. Liberia, for example, is reeling from the government’s illegal sell-off of a quarter of the country for logging permits in 2010-12, and huge new palm oil concessions are now threatening the subsistence livelihoods of hundreds of rural communities. A recent independent audit assessed 68 natural resource deals and found that the government had awarded the vast majority in breach of its own laws.

/ENDS