Taylor's 50-year sentence draws mixed reactions in Liberia (+video)
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.
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.Skip to next paragraph
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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.