Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria,...

Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria, at Damascus University. Credit: AP, 2011

Bashar Assad, take note. Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was sentenced yesterday to 50 years behind bars as a result of his role in "some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history," as the presiding judge of an international criminal court put it.

Meanwhile 13 more bodies, bound and many apparently executed, have turned up in eastern Syria. This grisly finding is in addition to more than 100 killed, many of them also executed, and dozens of them children, in central Homs province.

These are only the most recent outrages. The Syrian president's brutal suppression of protests against his dictatorial regime has claimed the lives of an estimated 12,000 people, and the death toll is still rising.

The Taylor prosecution -- for murder, rape, mutilation, the use of child soldiers and other charges -- is noteworthy for Assad because Taylor was the first head of state convicted by an international tribunal (in this case, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, in the Netherlands) since the Nuremberg trials after World War II. He's unlikely to be the last.

Two things are clear about Syria. The violence has got to stop. And President Assad has got to go. Syria's tyrant thus far has been protected from the harshest international condemnation and sanctions by China and especially Russia, both members of the UN Security Council. The latter sells weapons and coal to Syria and has a naval base there.

But propping up Assad is a bad bet for his international supporters, who ought to get themselves on the right side of history. Indeed, if Assad and his protectors have any sense they will find a graceful exit and give democracy a chance in Syria. Absent a deal, Taylor's fate is not out of the question for Assad, whose brutality has shocked the world.

The Syrian uprising is showing no signs of going away despite Assad's efforts to suppress it. And if he maintains his bloody grip on power much longer, he is as likely to follow in the footsteps not of Taylor, but of Moammar Gadhafi, who kept killing until he finally fell victim to his own reign of terror.