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Trial of former Liberian President in Netherlands

UN Council authorizes trial of former Liberian President in the Netherlands

Citing reasons of security and expediency, the Security Council today paved the way for the transfer of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to The Hague, Netherlands from Sierra Leone, where he is now awaiting trial under a United Nations-backed tribunal on charges related to his role in that country's bloody civil war.

Through an unanimously adopted resolution drafted by the United Kingdom, the 15-Member body requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan “to assist, as a matter of priority, in the conclusion of all necessary legal and practical arrangements,” for Mr. Taylor’s transfer and the provision of the necessary courtroom facilities for the conduct of a trial under the auspices of the Special Court of Sierra Leone.

Saying that the ex-Liberian leader’s continued presence in the West African sub-region “is an impediment to stability and a threat to the peace of Liberia and of Sierra Leone,” and that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was already too busy to handle the case, the Council decided that the Special Court would retain “exclusive jurisdiction over former President Taylor during his transfer to and presence in the Netherlands.”

The Netherlands is willing to host the Special Court for the trial, the Council noted in its text, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, is willing to allow the use of its premises for the detention of Mr. Taylor and the trial proceedings.

Mr. Taylor faces an 11-count indictment for crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including sexual slavery and mutilations allegedly committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war.

But the Special Court, as well as newly-elected Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, feared that Taylor’s presence in the countries where he allegedly fomented uprisings during the 1990s could shatter the fragile peace that was taking hold in the long-troubled West African region.

Shortly after Taylor’s arrest, the Netherlands expressed its willingness to host the Special Court, and just yesterday, the British Government said Taylor could serve his prison sentence in the United Kingdom if he was convicted, a decision immediately hailed by the Secretary-General as “another step forward in our battle against impunity for the most heinous crimes.”

Expressing a similar sentiment in its resolution today, the Council said that the proceedings in the case against Mr. Taylor would contribute to achieving truth and reconciliation in Liberia and in wider West Africa.

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