Mr Taylor, who maintains his innocence, will serve his sentence in the UK.
Prosecutors had called for Charles Taylor to be given 80 years in jail as the court does not have the power to impose life sentences or capital punishment. He was found guilty in April of 11 counts, including rape, murder, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers.
The trial Prosecutor Brenda Hollis had argued: “Mr Taylor was the root which fed and maintained the RUF and AFRC/RUF alliance alive. Without him the rebel movement, with its attendant crimes, would have suffered an earlier death.
“His own involvement was more pervasive than the other senior leaders of the AFRC and RUF whose sentences are now final”.
Human Rights organisation Global Witness said Mr Taylor’s trial highlighted the way in which he used natural resources such as diamonds to fund his campaign of brutal war, while also providing him with a personal fortune.
The charity’s Founder Director Patrick Alley said: “Today’s sentence not only reflects the severity of Taylor’s crimes but sends a clear message that individuals who aid and abet war crimes can no longer act with impunity”.