Defense Lawyers Say 80-Year Sentence Excessive for Charles Taylor



Defense lawyers for convicted former Liberian president Charles Taylor have told Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) judges in The Hague that the prosecution’s request for Taylor to serve a maximum of 80 years in jail is “disproportionate” and “excessive.”

In their sentencing submission filed on May 10, 2012, defense lawyers noted that “the 80-year sentence advocated by the Prosecution is manifestly disproportionate and excessive; it is not justified.”
On April 26, SCSL judges found Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of all crimes charged in the 11 count indictment against him. The judges noted that Taylor was not liable for the actions of the rebel forces in Sierra Leone under the doctrines of command responsibility or joint criminal enterprise. The judges, however, found that Taylor was guilty of planning specific rebel attacks in three Sierra Leonean towns in late 1998 to early 1999, including attacks on the diamond rich-town of Kono and the country’s capital Freetown.
In a sentencing brief filed on May 3, 2012 the Prosecution asked the judges to sentence Taylor to a maximum jail term of 80 years. The former Liberian President’s defense team has asked the judges to do otherwise.
“What amounts to an ‘appropriate sentence,’ the Defense submits, will not ultimately be determined by the number of years imposed, as the Prosecution suggests, but rather more crucially, by the Trial Chamber’s reasoned approach, which should clearly set out the basis upon which the penalty is imposed,” the defense argue in their brief.
According to the defense, “An ‘appropriate sentence,’ we submit, is one that is rationally contrived, objectively reasoned and justifiable in law and on the facts of the case. It is not one that is simply designed to have Mr. Taylor ‘put away for a long time,’ as others have contrived.”
The defense further note in their sentencing brief that Mr. Taylor should have the benefit of mitigation for several reasons including his role in the peace process in Sierra Leone, his willingness to step down from the Liberian presidency in order to save his country from more atrocities, the time that he has already served in detention and the manner in which he has cooperated with the Court during his trial. The defense also referenced Mr. Taylor’s age and the fact that he is a family man as reasons why he should benefit from mitigation.
Both the prosecution and the defense will make oral submissions on sentencing before the judges this Wednesday, May 16. Mr. Taylor will also have the opportunity to address the Court for about 30 minutes.
The judges will deliver their verdict on Mr. Taylor’s sentence on May 30, 2012.

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