Charles Taylor, the first head of state to be convicted of international war crimes since World War II, was given a 50 year prison sentence today for his role in the atrocities during Sierra Leone's brutal civil war. The special war crimes tribunal in The Hague was not allowed to give capital punishment or life in prison, but the severe sentence likely means that the 64-year-old Taylor will die in a UK prison.
Judge Richard Lussick said while handing out the sentence that the crimes were of "utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality" and that Taylor's role as leader of Liberia puts him in a "class of his own" when it comes to criminals brought before the court. Taylor was convicted on 11 counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and the use of child soldiers during the conflict from 1996-2002. Taylor was accused of supporting the rebel armies that terrorized Sierra Leone in exchange for a steady supply of diamonds from that nation's lucrative mines.