June 4, 2003 Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) welcomes the announcement today by the Office of the Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone that Liberian President Charles Taylor has been indicted for “bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
Taylor, currently in Ghana for peace talks about the civil war in his own country, is the subject of an arrest warrant served on Ghanaian authorities and transmitted to INTERPOL. The Prosecutor said it is imperative that those attending the talks know ‘they are dealing with an indicted war criminal. These talks can move forward, but they must do so without the involvement of this indictee. The evidence upon which this indictment was approved raises serious questions about Taylor’s suitability to be a guarantor of any deal, let alone a peace agreement.’
PAC brought international attention to the theft of Sierra Leonean diamonds by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone in 2000, and showed how hundreds of millions of dollars worth of diamonds were flowing through the Liberian capital of Monrovia to pay for weapons in one of Africa’s most brutal wars. Breaking UN sanctions, Charles Taylor and his government provided a base, training, financing and political cover for the RUF, facts borne out in subsequent United Nations reports. These led to the establishment in Sierra Leone of the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world, and the creation of the Special Court which has now indicted Taylor.
Partnership Africa Canada’s Research Coordinator, Ian Smillie, said today that “This indictment sends a powerful international message about justice and the long arm of the law to those who foment war and human rights abuse everywhere. There can be no impunity for war crimes,” he said.
Smillie, who served on a UN Security Council Expert Panel on Sierra Leone in 2000, said he hoped that the Government of Ghana would turn Taylor over to the court immediately. “And the Security Council must now take immediate action in Liberia to ensure that any power vacuum does not lead to even worse atrocities than those Liberians have endured under Taylor’s rule. It is time to put a small, well equipped force into Liberia mandated to start working towards a real and lasting peace,” he said.