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UN Court to Rule on Charles Taylor's Appeal

  • VOA News

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appears in court at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. January 22, 2013

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appears in court at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. January 22, 2013

A United Nations-backed special court will rule Thursday on former Liberian President Charles Taylor's appeal of his conviction on war crimes during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone.

Taylor was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison last year on 11 counts of crimes against humanity, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape and the conscription of child soldiers.

Prosecutors accused Taylor of supporting the rebels in Sierra Leone with weapons and other supplies in exchange for so-called "blood diamonds." The former president has maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

His lawyers say there was no evidence that Taylor was directly involved with assisting the rebels, who have been accused of killing and mutilating thousands of civilians during the 11-year war. Taylor launched an appeal against his conviction in January this year, with his defense calling for it to be overturned because of his lack of direct criminal involvement.

The court hearings were delayed by the former leader's refusal to cooperate and efforts to fight its jurisdiction. Taylor denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

“Never, ever did I receive, whether it is mayonnaise or coffee or whatever jar, never received any diamonds from the RUF. It's a lie, it's a diabolical lie. Never,” said Taylor during the trial.

In August 2010, supermodel Naomi Campbell testified at the trial. Prosecutors said that during a visit to South Africa in 1997, Taylor gave Campbell a large rough cut diamond after a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela. Campbell said she had been given “dirty looking pebbles” after the dinner in South Africa, but did not know if they were diamonds from Taylor. She gave the diamonds to Jeremy Ratcliffe, then-head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

“I asked him to take them and do something good with them. He is someone that I trust and I know for a while and I believed that's what he would do,” said the British supermodel.

Taylor was first indicted in 2003, along with 12 other suspects. He was arrested in March 2006 during exile in Nigeria, and then moved to The Hague in June 2006 due to fears that a trial in Sierra Leone could kindle unrest in the country or neighboring Liberia.

During the trial, prosecutors called 91 witnesses to support their charges that child soldiers under Taylor's command were sent to battle drugged with amphetamines and marijuana.

The tribunal, which has no death penalty, was established by Sierra Leone and the United Nations to punish those responsible for serious human rights abuses in the African nation since 1996. It has completed cases against 8 of the 13 suspects, who have received sentences of up to 51 years in prison.

Taylor is the first head of state since the end of WWII to face charges of crimes against humanity before an international tribunal.

Reuters contributed to this report.