The 66-year-old former president of the west African state is appealing to the UN-backed tribunal in The Hague, which sentenced him, arguing that he is being deprived of his right to a family life.
Two years ago the special court for Sierra Leone convicted him of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity by supporting rebels in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002 in return for “blood diamonds”.
Taylor has been held in HMP Frankland, near Durham, for the past eight months but has not received any family visits, according to his lawyers, because immigration officials have refused to issue visas for his wife and 15 children.
One of the grounds of his appeal, John Jones QC told BBC radio, was that he was being denied his right to a family life as guaranteed by article 8 of the European convention on human rights.
“The UK has not given the family visas,” Jones said. “Charles Taylor is the only person convicted by the tribunal to serve his sentence outside Africa. It’s inexplicable. Everyone else [convicted by the court] is in Rwanda.”
At his appeal against sentence in The Hague two years ago, Taylor’s lawyers said that exiling the former Liberian leader to Britain’s jails would leave him culturally isolated and constitute a “punishment within a punishment”.
Taylor was found guilty of 11 charges, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, enforced amputations and pillage. Before the four-year trial began, the UK signed a “sentence enforcement agreement” with the Dutch government, stating that Britain would give Taylor prison space.
His conviction was the first by an international court of a former head of state since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in 1946. Taylor’s detention is reported to be costing the UK £80,000 a year.
The Foreign Office, which is leading on the Taylor case, said it could not comment on whether visa applications made by Taylor’s family in Liberia had been refused.
An FCO spokesperson added: “This is not a case against the UK. A motion has been filed with the residual special court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL) who are responsible for determining where he serves his sentence. The motion requests that the RSCSL transfer him to a prison in Rwanda.”