Former Liberian president Charles Taylor is to be transferred to a British prison to serve his 50-year sentence for crimes against humanity – but one expert has revealed he coud be let out at any time.
Taylor became the first former head of state to be convicted by an international war crimes court since the Second World War when he was found guilty last year of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers.
In a written statement to Parliament, Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said that following a request from the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), former president Taylor will now be transferred to a prison in the UK to serve his sentence.
Mr Wright said: “International justice is central to foreign policy.
“It is essential for securing the rights of individuals and states, and for securing peace and reconciliation.
“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.”
Taylor, 65, aided rebels in Sierra Leone during a brutal civil war in the 1990s which left 50,000 people dead.
Thousands more were left mutilated in the conflict that became known for the extreme cruelty of rival rebel groups who hacked off the limbs of their victims and carved their initials into opponents.
Taylor helped to plan attacks in return for ”blood diamonds” mined by slave labourers in Sierra Leone and political influence in the volatile West African region.
He was convicted not only of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone rebels from Liberia, but also for actually planning some of the attacks carried out by Sierra Leone rebel groups, the Revolutionary United Front and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.
It is not the first time Britain has hosted foreign war criminals – four men convicted of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia served time in British jails.
The men spent time in high-security prisons, with one former Bosnian-Serb general stabbed at Wakefield prison, apparently in retaliation for the massacre of Muslims in the UN safe haven of Srebrenica in 1995.
The former president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, would have stayed in a British jail but died in 2006 while he was on trial in the Hague.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national prisons newspaper, revealed normal British prisoner release arrangements do not apply.
Mr Leech said: “British prisoner release arrangments only apply to those sentenced in UK courts, the release of Charles Taylor is in the hands of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and they can choose to release him at any time.”