Liberia's Charles Taylor transferred to UK

Charles Taylor in court on September 26 2013 Charles Taylor is the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes since World War II

Ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor has arrived in the UK to serve the remainder of his 50-year prison sentence for war crimes.

He had asked the UN-backed special court in The Hague to serve his jail term in Rwanda instead.

Taylor was handed over to UK prison service representatives after his plane landed at 11:00 BST (10:00 GMT).

He was sentenced in May 2012 for aiding rebels who committed atrocities in Sierra Leone during its civil war.

Analysis

British diplomats will hail the jailing of Charles Taylor in the UK as the successful culmination of a long-term development strategy in Sierra Leone. Many people in West Africa will agree with them.

Taylor was convicted of backing Sierra Leonean rebels in the civil war, during which the UK was the main international supporter on the side of the government.

After British troops helped defeat the rebels backed by Mr Taylor in 2000, the British army embarked on a long-term retraining programme for the Sierra Leone armed forces. British aid workers meanwhile ran long-term development programmes and mentored the government.

So the jailing of Taylor - and the British role in facilitating it - will be seen by the British as another part of the same strategy.

Sierra Leone is still very poor and corruption is a major issue. But it is peaceful and democratic. It is a far, far better place than it was during the war years.

The former president, 65, was convicted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), but his trial was held in The Hague in case it sparked renewed unrest in West Africa.

The Netherlands only agreed to host the trial if he was imprisoned elsewhere.

In a statement, the SCSL said Taylor left the Netherlands on a chartered flight on Tuesday morning, "accompanied by Special Court detention and security officials".

He would be given credit for the time he had served in detention since his arrest on 26 March 2006, the statement said.

Last month, Taylor's appeal was rejected, with the court that ruling his guilt had been proved beyond doubt.

He was convicted on 11 charges including terrorism, rape, murder and the use of child soldiers by rebel groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 conflict, in which some 50,000 people died.

The former Liberian leader was found to have supplied weapons to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for so-called blood diamonds.

The rebels were notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians to terrorise the population.

Taylor has always insisted he is innocent and his only contact with the rebels was to urge them to stop fighting.

Players of the Sierra Leone civil war amputees football team pose on 7 April 2006 at a beach in Freetown, Sierra Leone Many victims of Sierra Leone's civil war had limbs hacked off by rebels

He is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II.

'Attack fears'

Earlier this month, Taylor sent a letter sent to the court saying he wanted to serve his sentence in Rwanda as it would be easier - and less expensive - for his family to visit him in Africa.

He also said he feared being attacked in a British prison.

Taylor timeline

• 1989: Launches rebellion in Liberia

• 1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone

• 1997: Elected president after a 1995 peace deal

• 1999: Rebels take up arms against Taylor

• June 2003: Arrest warrant issued; two months later he steps down and goes into exile in Nigeria

• March 2006: Arrested after a failed escape bid and sent to Sierra Leone

• June 2007: His trial opens - hosted in The Hague for security reasons

• April 2012: Convicted of aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes - later sentenced to 50 years in jail

In his three-page letter, seen by the BBC, Taylor said: "My name is now associated with horrendous atrocities. Prison inmates, whether from the region or not, are likely to be inclined to inflict their own brand of justice by attacking me."

But the court said on Tuesday that "no other country had offered or accepted to enforce the remainder of Mr Taylor's sentence".

UK forces intervened in Sierra Leone in 2000, sending 800 paratroopers to protect Freetown as rebel forces were closing in on the capital. They evacuated British citizens and helped secure the airport for beleaguered UN peacekeepers.

The British forces pushed back the rebels, allowing the UN peacekeeping force to operate effectively. British forces then stayed on for another two years to re-train the Sierra Leone army.

An act of parliament was passed in 2007 to allow for Taylor to serve his sentence in the UK at the cost of the government.

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