In advance of the U.N. Security Council’s meeting on Tuesday, May 24, to discuss the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Human Rights First urged Security Council members to come up with a plan of action to bring to justice former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
“Charles Taylor’s continuing impunity not only undermines the rule of law but also poses a threat to peace and security in West Africa,” said John Stompor, Senior Associate in the International Justice Program at Human Rights First. “The Special Court has contributed greatly to the restoration of peace in Sierra Leone, but its mission remains incomplete until Taylor is brought to justice.”
More than two years ago, the Special Court for Sierra Leone approved an arrest warrant for Taylor on charges of crimes against humanity and other grave crimes, but he still remains at large under Nigerian protection.
“At this point, there is absolutely no legitimate reason to permit Taylor to evade justice in Sierra Leone,” added Stompor. “The Security Council should take all actions needed to ensure that Taylor is swiftly brought to trial before the Special Court.”
Since August 2003, when Taylor resigned as president and departed Liberia, he has resided in the eastern Nigerian town of Calabar. It was then claimed that so-called “asylum” for Taylor was necessary to help end the armed conflict in Liberia. However, there is now a growing body of evidence that Taylor is maintaining regular contact with former military commanders, business associates and members of his political party who are planning to undermine the peace process and upcoming elections in Liberia.
In March 2003, the Special Court for Sierra Leone approved an indictment and arrest warrant for Charles Taylor on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. These charges include allegations that Taylor is responsible for numerous acts of violence committed against civilians in Sierra Leone, including unlawful killings, mutilation, rape, abduction, and forced labor. They also include allegations that Taylor is responsible for criminal attacks on the U.N. Mission in Sierra Leone.
In May 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate adopted a resolution calling on Nigeria to transfer Taylor to the jurisdiction of the Special Court. Previously, the European Parliament had adopted a resolution calling for Taylor’s surrender to the Court.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established in 2002 on the basis of an agreement between the United Nations and Sierra Leone. The Court’s duty is to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious crimes under international law and Sierra Leonean law perpetrated since 1996 in Sierra Leone. Eleven individuals stand indicted by the Special Court, and trials for nine of these indictees are currently ongoing.