PARIS — A panel of appeals judges upheld a 50-year prison sentence on Thursday against Charles G. Taylor, the former president of Liberia, on charges of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in a case that had been cast as a watershed for modern human rights law.
In a lengthy summary, read out in court, the judges ruled that Taylor’s sentencing had been “fair and reasonable,” rejecting the defense appeal for his immediate release and the prosecution appeal for his prison term to be extended to 80 years.
Taylor, 65, was found guilty in April 2012 on all counts of an 11-count indictment alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to his role in aiding murderous rebels who committed atrocities in Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s.
He was accused of fomenting widespread brutality that included murder, rape, the use of child soldiers, the mutilation of thousands of civilians, and the mining of diamonds to pay for guns and ammunition.
In May 2012 he was sentenced to 50 years in prison — the first former head of state convicted by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials in Germany after World War II.
After the reaffirmation of his conviction on Thursday, the hunt for Taylor’s suspected fortune could well resume.
Taylor has ties to the Boston area. He arrived on a student visa in 1972 and studied economics at Chamberlayne Junior College in Newton and Bentley College in Waltham.
He became a leading Liberian dissident, and in 1977 he returned to Liberia, joining Samuel Doe's government after a coup in 1980.
After a falling out with Doe, Taylor was accused of embezzling $1 million from the government and fled back to Boston. He was arrested in Somerville in 1984 but escaped from a Plymouth jail in 1985.
Under the tribunal’s rules, victims in Sierra Leone, particularly thousands who suffered during the attack in 1999 on the capital of Freetown, are entitled to seek reparations in national courts.
Experts believe these civil cases could go on for years because Taylor’s widely rumored assets have proved elusive.
Investigators have succeeded in freezing $8 million held by his relatives and associates.
But, according to court filings, the tribunal failed to discover the final destination of millions traced through Liberian and other banks while he was in power and the court’s investigators were unable to prove his presumed ownership in a number of companies.
With Taylor claiming he was “partially indigent,” the nations that helped fund the tribunal — the United States was the largest donor — have had to cover his legal bills and the broader expenses of a trial that cost more than $20 million.