SIERRA LEONE: PROSECUTOR OF UN-BACKED COURT DISAPPOINTED TAYLOR EVADES ARREST
From: UN New York, June 05 2003 03:00PM
© UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news
The prosecutor for a United Nations-backed tribunal today said he regretted
that the international community “disappointed” the people of Sierra Leone
in missing a “precious opportunity” to stand up to impunity by failing to
secure the arrest of Liberian President Charles Taylor on war crimes charges
before he was able to flee peace talks in Ghana.
In Freetown, David Crane, Chief Prosecutor of the
Special Court for Sierra Leone, said the fight to
bring President Taylor to justice has just begun and “will not end until the
people of Sierra Leone and West Africa see him in a courtroom.”
The Court announced yesterday that it had indicted Mr. Taylor for war crimes
and issued an international warrant for his arrest as he was in Ghana
attending peace talks with opposition forces. Inside the conference hall,
Mr. Taylor told delegates he would step down if he is seen as an obstacle to
peace in Liberia. He did not mention the Sierra Leone indictment. According
to Mr. Crane, after the charges were made public, Mr. Taylor fled the
conference to return to Liberia as a fugitive.
“Taylor is now an indicted war criminal and a fugitive,” the Chief
Prosecutor said, stressing that the arrest warrant was still outstanding and
that any nation that finds the Liberian President within its borders is
legally bound to execute it. “All States are on notice that they cannot
provide him safe harbour,” he said.
Mr. Taylor is charged with “bearing the greatest responsibility” for war
crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international
humanitarian law” in Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996, the height of that
country’s brutal 10-year civil war. The indictment had been judicially
approved on 7 March but had been sealed until yesterday.
Mr. Crane said that by failing to arrest Mr. Taylor, the international
community had missed an important opportunity to live up to its promise to
help the people of Sierra Leone and West Africa achieve true peace and
reconciliation. “Instead of providing a strong message about accountability,
the provided weak excuses,” he said.
“Now is the time for leadership,” he said, calling on the UN Security
Council, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS) and the International Contact Group for Liberia to take
action to bring Mr. Taylor to justice. “Either we stand up to impunity or we
Meanwhile, a UN spokesman in New York said Secretary-General Kofi Annan
continues to support the work of the Special Court. “He also continues to
attach great importance to the peace process in Liberia, since that
country’s problems can only be solved through political means,” Fred Eckhard
“The coincidence yesterday of the indictment of President Taylor by the
Special Court as a high-level political effort was under way in Ghana was
unfortunate, but illustrates the tension sometimes between the imperatives
of justice and peace,” the spokesman said.
In other news from the Court, indictee Ibrahim “Bazzy” Kamara pleaded “not
guilty” yesterday to 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity
levelled against him, at a hearing in the town of Bonthe, off Sierra Leone’s
coast. The charges against Mr. Kamara – the alleged commander of a military
junta that came to power in May 1997 but which was overthrown nine months
later – include terrorizing civilians, use of child soldiers, sexual
violence and attacks on UN personnel.