The chief prosecutor at a UN-backed tribunal, Brenda Hollis has said that the convicted, former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, should be punished with a sentence of 80 years for committing atrocities in west Africa. In a submission to the special court this week, the prosecutor argued that: “Taylor was not a simple weapons procurer or financier who sat on the sidelines of a civil war raging in a neighbouring country.

According to Hollis, “His positions both as president of Liberia and within the west African regional bodies distinguish him from any other individual that has appeared before this court. Taylor’s abuse of his authority and influence is especially egregious given that West African leaders repeatedly entrusted him with a role to facilitate peace.”

“The court’s findings reveal the reality of Taylor’s role in the peace process, noting that ‘while the accused publicly played a substantial role in the Sierra Leone peace process secretly he was fuelling hostilities between the AFRC/RUF and the democratically elected authorities in Sierra Leone, by urging the former not to disarm and actively providing them with arms and ammunition … acting as a two-headed Janus’.”

Hollis added: “Considering the extreme magnitude and seriousness of the crimes that were committed against the people of Sierra Leone for which Taylor has been found responsible … the prosecution recommends that Charles Taylor be sentenced to a prison term of no less than 80 years. No significant mitigating circumstances exist in this case.”

64 years old Taylor, was found guilty of an 11 counts charge of murder, rape, sexual slavery, enforced amputations and pillage carried out between 1996 and 2002 by the special court for Sierra Leone in The Hague last month and is expected to be sentenced on 30 May, 2012.

If given 80 years, the former Liberian president, who has been in custody in a Dutch jail since 2006, would receive a far longer sentence than the leaders of the Sierra Leonean militias already imprisoned for their part in the atrocities. One of them, Issa Sesay, a former leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was given 52 years for his role. He is currently in a Rwandan prison.

Meanwhile, Taylor’s lead counsel, Courtenay Griffiths QC accused the international justice community of targeting African leaders excessively. He said that Africans were being sent for trial and detention thousands of miles away to Europe “in handcuffs and chains”. He added: “This is a 21st-century form of colonialism.”

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