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Why Charles Taylor's 50-year war crimes sentence was upheld

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appealed his conviction on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers. An international war crimes court upheld the conviction.

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Taylor was convicted not only of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone rebels from his seat of power in neighboring Liberia, but also for actually planning some of the attacks carried out by two Sierra Leone rebel groups — the Revolutionary United Front and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council. In return he was given "blood diamonds" mined by slave laborers in Sierra Leone and gained political influence in volatile West Africa.

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Prosecuting Taylor proved how hard it is to bring leaders to justice. He fled into exile in Nigeria after being indicted in 2003 and wasn't arrested for three years. And while the Sierra Leone court is based in that country's capital, Taylor's trial was staged in the Netherlands for fear it could destabilize the region.

Arthur Saye, Charles Taylor's brother-in-law, who monitored the verdict on television from his shop in Paynesville, Liberia, said he was not surprised at the ruling.

"From day one, my position has been that the trial of Mr. Taylor was orchestrated by the powers that be — the Western powers," he told The Associated Press. "This was an international conspiracy; so I am not surprised or disappointed" by the verdict.

He added he had spoken by telephone to Taylor's wife Victoria, who is in the Netherlands.

"I thought she (would be) downhearted, but she was not," he said. "We are going to put our lives back together."

Taylor's lawyer Morris Anyah said outside the courtroom that Taylor himself was disappointed but "he has remained stoic and calm."

"He expressed his view that the next phase of life is to see how to preserve his contact with his family and ensure that his younger children are provided for," Anyah said.

In a development that could have a lasting impact on future war crimes cases, Thursday's ruling clashed with an appeals decision by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in which former Serbian Gen. Momcilo Perisic was acquitted of aiding and abetting war crimes.

Judges at the ICTY said in order to aid and abet a crime, a suspect has to have "specifically directed" aid toward committing crimes.

But judges in the Taylor case openly disagreed with that. They said the key to guilt in aiding and abetting a crime is that a suspect's participation encouraged the commission of crimes and had a substantial effect on the crimes actually being committed — not the particular manner in which a suspect was involved.


Associated Press reporters Toby Sterling contributed to this story from Leidschendam, Netherlands, and Jonathan Paye-Layleh contributed from Monrovia, Liberia.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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