[JURIST] The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] on Thursday rejected an appeal [judgment] by former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of his convictions for war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive]. According to press release [text] from the court, Taylor's lawyers appealed his convictions on 42 grounds, arguing that the Trial Chamber erred in evaluating evidence and that the 50-year sentence was "manifestly unreasonable." The court ruled that his guilt had been proved beyond doubt and upheld Taylor's 50-year sentence. The sentence came after Trial Chamber II convicted [judgment, PDF] Taylor of planning as well as aiding and abetting crimes committed by rebel forces in exchange for diamonds during the civil war, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces, enslavement and pillage.
The SCSL was created in a joint endeavor by the government of Sierra Leone and the UN to provide a forum to try those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law, committed in Sierra Leone. With Taylor's conviction, the SCSL has largely fulfilled its mission and will take steps to shut down. Steps have already been taken to facilitate this process. In November 2009, the SCSL handed over its detention facility [JURIST report] to the Sierra Leone Prison Service in a monumental step towards the court's resolution. The month before, eight men judged guilty of war crimes by the court were transferred [JURIST report] to Rwanda to serve out their terms. Although the court is winding down, it is still active. In early October, the SCSL sentenced [JURIST report] four men to prison terms ranging from 18 months to 2 years on contempt charges stemming from allegations of witness tampering. The month before, the court found three members of Sierra Leone's former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) guilty of contempt [JURIST report].