Top of the Morning: Charles Taylor Gets 50 Years; Big Day for Syria Diplomacy

Top stories from DAWNS Digest. 

Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years in Prison

The former president of Liberia was convicted of war crimes last month by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for crimes committed during that country’s civil war. His sentence has been handed down, and chances are he will never see the outside of a prison again. “Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor’s actions of supplying arms and providing encouragement and guidance to the rebels heightened the gravity of his criminal conduct.’The steady flow of arms and ammunition he supplied extended the Sierra Leone conflict and the commission of crimes it entailed,’ said Lussick. ‘Had the RUF/AFRC [Revolutionary United Front/Armed Forces Revolutionary Council] not had this support from Mr. Taylor, the conflict and the commission of crimes might have ended much earlier.’ Prosecutors had asked for an 80-year prison term, but the court said a sentence of that length ‘would be excessive.’” (VOA

Diplomatic Fallout from Houla Massacre

The diplomatic fallout from the Houla massacre is underway. Australia, the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, Spain and Japan expelled Syrian diplomats. Also, speaking on French TV, new Prime Minister Francois Hollande did not rule out the prospect of military intervention. Meanwhile, yesterday, Kofi Annan met face to face with Assad in Damascus. Annan is expected to brief the Security Council today. For the coming days we can expect some heavy maneuvering as western countries push Russia to accept some sort of punitive measures against Syria, like sanctions or an ICC referral.   The latest updates from a busy day of Syria diplomacy. (CNN

Somali President Escapes Attack Unharmed

A convoy carrying Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was attacked as it travelled from Mogadishu to the Afgoye corridor. The catch? That area was declared free of Al Shabaab rebels on Monday after a joint African Union-Somali offensive against the rebel group last week. “At least one Somali government soldier was killed and four were wounded when al-Shabab gunmen opened fire as President Ahmed drove down the road between Afgoye and Mogadishu. Known as the Afgoye corridor, the road is a strategic stretch of land and home to up to 400,000 people who have fled years of fighting and are now living in makeshift camp, the world’s largest concentration of displaced people. The attack is reported to have occurred on the outskirts of Elasha town, which is midway between Mogadishu and the former al-Shabab stronghold of Afgoye, which was captured by interim government forces and African Union troops on Friday.” (BBC