The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) issued a press release stating that the appeal judgment in the Charles Taylor case will be announced on September 26, 2013. In April 2012, SCSL judges convicted Mr. Taylor on 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of international humanitarian law that occurred from November 1996 to January 2002 during the course of Sierra Leone’s civil war. The judges also convicted the former Liberian president of planning, with former RUF leader Sam Bockarie, attacks on Kono, Makeni, and Freetown, which took place in late 1998 and early 1999. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in May 2012.
On July 19, 2012, both the prosecution and defense teams filed notices of appeal against the findings of the Trial Chamber on Mr. Taylor’s conviction and his sentence. The prosecution appealed the Trial Chamber conviction on four grounds, including the Chamber’s failure to find Mr. Taylor liable for ordering and instigating the commission of crimes, the failure to find him liable for crimes committed in certain location in five districts on the ground that they fell outside the scope of the indictment, as well as the decision to sentence him to a single term of 50 years. The prosecution originally asked that Mr. Taylor serve an 80 year jail term.
The defense has raised 42 grounds of appeal. The defense disagrees with the findings of the Trial Chamber that Taylor was involved in planning attacks on Kono, Makeni, and Freetown in 1998 and 1999 and that he assisted the commission of crimes by providing medical assistance to rebel forces in Sierra Leone. The defense also argues that the 50 year jail sentence is “manifestly unreasonable,” and that the judges “erred” in their failure to consider Taylor’s expression of sympathy as grounds of mitigation. Concerns were also raised over irregularities in the proceedings based on the statement made by the Alternate Judge El-Hadj Malick Sow that there had been no deliberations among the judges and that Justice Julia Sebutinde’s participation in the proceedings after she had already become a judge of the International Court of Justice was improper.
The Appeals Chamber will announce its judgment at 11:00am on Thursday, September 26, from The Hague. The appeal judgment will mark the conclusion of the trial, which began in June 2007 and saw 94 witnesses testify for the prosecution and 21 for the defense, including Charles Taylor himself, over its duration.
More information on the case, including the Trial Chamber judgment and appeal submissions, is available here.