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Court affirms ex-Liberian president's role in fostering war crimes in Sierra Leone

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands — More than a decade after fueling a murderous campaign of terror in Sierra Leone by supplying rebels with arms, Charles Taylor was definitively convicted and imprisoned on Thursday for 50 years, in a ruling that finally delivered justice for victims.

The appeals chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone upheld the former Liberian president's conviction on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers.

Taylor, 65, is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II and Thursday's confirmation was welcomed as underscoring a new era of accountability for heads of state.

“This is a historic and momentous day for the people of Sierra Leone and the region,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

“The judgment is a significant milestone in international criminal justice, as it confirms the conviction of a former head of state for aiding, abetting and planning war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Stephen Rapp, the ambassador for war crimes issues at the Department of State and former prosecutor at the Sierra Leone court, said the ruling “sends a clear message to all the world, that when you commit crimes like this, it may not happen overnight, but there will be a day of reckoning.”

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