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Liberia's Charles Taylor to serve war crimes sentence in UK

By AFP

London (AFP) - Liberia's former president and warlord Charles Taylor is to serve out his 50-year prison sentence for war crimes in a British jail, Britain confirmed on Thursday.

Taylor, 65, is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars in Britain after the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in The Hague upheld his sentence for arming rebels during Sierra Leone's brutal civil war during the 1990s.

"Former president Taylor will now be transferred to a prison in the UK to serve that sentence," Britain's junior justice minister Jeremy Wright said in a statement to parliament.

The justice ministry refused to disclose which jail would house the former strongman. "We don't comment on individual cases," a ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

Taylor's landmark sentence -- on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity -- was the first handed down by an international court against a former head of state since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in 1946.

He had been arrested in 2006 and sentenced at The Hague last year for "some of the most heinous crimes in human history".

As Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003, Taylor supplied guns and ammunition to rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone in a conflict notorious for its mutilations, drugged child soldiers and sex slaves, judges said.

He had maintained his innocence throughout the seven-year trial, which had heard evidence from witnesses including actress Mia Farrow and supermodel Naomi Campbell -- who told of the diamonds she believed she was given by Taylor in 1997.

The British government had offered in 2007 to house Taylor in a British jail if he was convicted, and to cover the costs of his imprisonment.

Sweden, Finland and Rwanda also offered to take in Taylor, and his lawyer had earlier suggested that he would prefer to go to Rwanda to be closer to his family.

"The United Kingdom's offer to enforce any sentence imposed on former president Taylor by the SCSL was crucial to ensuring that he could be transferred to The Hague to stand trial for his crimes," Wright said.

"The conviction of Charles Taylor is a landmark moment for international justice.

"It clearly demonstrates that those who commit atrocities will be held to account and that no matter their position they will not enjoy impunity."