“The 80-year sentence as advocated by the prosecution is manifestly disproportionate and excessive; it is not justified,” the former Liberian president’s lawyers said in papers filed before Sierra Leone’s UN-backed court. The suggestion [that] but for Mr Taylor, the war in Sierra Leone would not have happened the way it did is an outright fallacy, or wild speculation at best,” they added in a document made public by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Prosecutors and the defence will present their arguments to the court, based just outside The Hague, next week. Taylor, once one of the most powerful men in west Africa, will be sentenced on May 30. Taylor, 64, was found guilty last month of helping Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels wage a terror campaign during a civil war that claimed 120 000 lives between 1991 and 2001.
In the first judgement against an ex-head of state by a world court since the World War II Nuremberg trials, he was convicted on all 11 counts including acts of terrorism, murder and rape committed by the rebels, who paid him for arms with diamonds mined by slave labour.
Last week, the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis said an 80-year jail term would be fair given Taylor’s role in arming and aiding the rebels who killed and mutilated thousands in neighbouring Sierra Leone during the war. Should Taylor get jail time, it will be spent in a British prison.