A U.N.-backed appeals court upheld former Liberian President Charles Taylor's conviction and 50-year prison sentence Thursday, reaffirming their decision to punish the disgraced leader for aiding rebels in Sierra Leone in a civil war that killed roughly 50,000.
Taylor, 65, was elected president of Liberia in 1997 in the midst of the 11-year Sierra Leone civil war, during which time he abetted the Revolutionary United Front rebel army through weapons sales in exchange for illegal conflict diamonds.
"Today's judgement brings some measure of justice for those victims who suffered so horribly," prosecutor Brenda Hollis told reporters after the ruling. She said the court's final ruling in a case that spanned more than six years "affirms Taylor's criminal responsibility for grave crimes."
He was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in March 2003. He resigned a month later and fled to Nigeria in exile, where he remained for three years before being taken into custody as he tried to cross from the Nigerian border into Cameroon. The case was moved to the Netherlands due to concerns that the trial would destabilize the West African region.
Taylor was convicted on 11 charges in April 2012 – including murder, rape, sexual slavery, enlisting child soldiers and terrorizing civilians – and became the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders following World War II.
"If Charles Taylor had had a friend among the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, this case would not have had the traction it has had," Taylor's defense attorney Morris Anyah told Reuters. According to Anyah, Taylor hopes to serve his sentence in Finland, Sweden or Rwanda.
Thursday's decision may not mark the last time Taylor's name comes up in court. Victims in Sierra Leone are entitled to seek reparations for the Revolutionary United Front's 1999 siege on Freetown under the tribunal's rules, the New York Times reported. Though investigators have successfully frozen $8 million of Taylor's assets, the remainder of his fortune has yet to be located.