An international court proceeding ended Wednesday with the sentencing of Taylor, who was convicted of aiding and abetting numerous war crimes in Sierra Leone.
Taylor, 64, was the first head of state convicted by an international court since the Nazi trials after World War Two and the sentence set a precedent for the emerging system of international justice.
In an 11-year war that ended in 2002, Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels murdered, raped and mutilated their way across Liberia's West African neighbor, helped by Taylor as he profited from a trade in so-called blood diamonds.
"He was found responsible for aiding and abetting some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded history," said the Special Court for Sierra Leone's presiding judge Richard Lussick, emphazising that the world was "entering a new era of accountability."
Although shorter than the 80 years that prosecutors had sought, the sentence set a precedent for an international justice system aimed at deterring future war crimes. The court rejected all the defense's appeals for leniency.
"It is really significant that Taylor's status as a former head of state was taken as an aggravating factor as far as his sentence was concerned," said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner of Human Rights Watch.