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Liberian Ex-President Taylor at UN-Backed Court

Liberian Ex-President Taylor Subject To Proceedings Before Un-Backed Court

The Appeals Chamber of the United Nations-sponsored Special Court for Sierra Leone has ruled that the former Liberian President Charles Taylor is subject to its criminal proceedings even though he was in office at the time of his indictment in March 2003.

"We hold that the official position of the Applicant as an incumbent Head of State at the time when these criminal proceedings were initiated against him is not a bar to his prosecution by this Court," Court President Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, who last week succeeded Acting President Justice Renate Winter, said yesterday in Freetown.

Mr. Taylor's defence counsel had argued that under customary international law, he was immune from prosecution by virtue of his position. It also said the Special Court was a Sierra Leonean national institution, not an international one.

The Chamber re-affirmed a decision of 16 March that the Special Court was not national, but was properly constituted under international law.

Charles Taylor, currently in exile in Calabar, Nigeria, faces a 17-count indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 14-year conflict in Sierra Leone. The charges include terrorizing the civilian population, unlawful killings, sexual violence, physical violence, forced conscription of child soldiers, abductions, forced labour, looting and burning, and attacks on peacekeeping personnel.

According to Special Court Prosecutor David Crane, the Presidents of Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire have declared support for the Court's legal proceedings against Mr. Taylor. "The support of West African leaders is important to its ability to successfully meet its mandate in seeking justice for all West Africans," the Prosecutor said last month.

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