FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Amputees still struggling to lead normal lives years after being mutilated by rebels in Sierra Leone hailed the decision at The Hague Wednesday to sentence the man who backed those rebels, ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, to 50 years in prison.

In a landmark ruling by the Special Court on Sierra Leone last month, Taylor became the first former head of state since the aftermath of World War II to be convicted.

Taylor, 64, was found guilty on 11 counts of aiding and abetting the Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone, who murdered and mutilated tens of thousands of people during this country’s 11-year civil war that ended in 2002.

People maimed in the war gathered in the Sierra Leonean capital Wednesday to watch the Taylor trial via a live feed from The Hague, and rejoiced when judges in The Netherlands announced the 50-year sentence.

“That makes me the happiest person on earth,” said Alimami Kanu, whose right hand was hacked off by the RUF when he was 11 years old.

Siah Lebby, whose left leg was butchered by the rebels, said the tough sentence sends a strong signal. “After they have seen, they have seen what happened, all the people who want to do bad things again will be afraid.”

But no sentence can take away the deformities that people are now forced to live with, or their suffering. Over the weekend in the town of Makeni, three women whose arms were amputated by the rebels called for Taylor to be given no leniency.