April 17, 2006
He Killed Your Pa, He Killed Your Ma, Send Taylor to The Hague
In today’s International Herald Tribune, John Leigh who served as Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1998-2002 wrote the op-ed “Try Charles Taylor in Africa”
This is an interesting piece, but I disagree with Leigh’s points. The main one being that West Africa is still unstable with countries reeling from the aftermath of a civil war that former President Taylor fueled by providing arms and training insurgents in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone. Despite this, Leigh says that it’s better for Taylor to be tried in a neighboring country rather than transferring him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“Such a transfer would defeat a main purpose behind the establishment of the court in Sierra Leone: to teach Africans, in their own countries, the fundamentals of justice and to drive home the principle that no one is above the law.”
Africans can learn this lesson with the trial at The Hague too. Having the trial in Europe does nothing to undermine the integrity of the Special Court in Sierra Leone. The new president of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson doesn’t want Taylor tried in Africa. Taylor still has strong supporters among insurgents. Some of these rebel groups are active in the region. Why give them someone to rally support for? But Leigh argues:
“Taylor’s transfer abroad would seem like favoritism rendered to one of the most brutal of warlords out of perverse respect for the extreme horrors he perpetrated.”
This isn’t about the U.N. or the ICC showing favoritism. It’s about making someone who fueled an ethnic conflict into a civil war accountable. Up to 200,000 people were killed and more than 1 million were forced from their homes during 1989-1997.
Taylor has attempted to elude justice before. He was arrested in 1979 after threatening to take over the Liberian diplomatic mission in NY and was accused of embezzling $900,000 as head of Liberia’s General Services Administration.
While fighting extradition to Liberia, he managed to escape from jail and make his way to Libya where we underwent guerilla training. There he met fellow rebels Foday Sankoh (Sierra Leone) and Laurent Kabila (DRC-Congo) and they promised to support each others rise to power.
While in exile at his seaside villa in Nigeria, he managed to escape from jail last month after Johnson asked Nigerian President Obasanjo to extradite Taylor. He was caught crossing into Cameroon in a Range Rover and suitcase full of money in US currency.
West Africa doesn’t need Taylor. Let the Hague have him.
- Back in 1999, the Washington Post and The Virginian Pilot reported that Taylor signed an agreement allowing televangelist Pat Robertson access to a diamond mine in Liberia’s countryside. Robertson used his planes intended for humanitarian relief work in Rwanda to ship diamond-mining equipment to Liberia! Looks like Salvation comes from DeBeers.