|Charles Taylor must be Extradited from Nigeria for Trial|
|September 25, 2003 Charles Taylor, the former warlord president of Liberia must be extradited from Nigeria to stand trial before the UN-backed Special Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Partnership Africa Canada calls on the Canadian government and other members of the United Nations to do everything they can to ensure that Taylor answers for his crimes.
In June, the Special Court announced the indictment of Taylor for war crimes connected with the decade-long conflict in Sierra Leone. In the context of peace talks, Nigeria offered him sanctuary as a way of persuading him to relinquish power in his own war-ravaged country. In August, Taylor, accompanied by family and friends, left for Calabar, taking three planeloads of furniture and vehicles with him, as well as an estimated US$3 million in cash. From his villa in Nigeria he has been entertaining Liberian visitors and maintaining regular contact by cellphone with his surrogates at home.
Charles Taylor began his war for power in Liberia in 1989. Over 200,000 Liberians died in the ensuing years until an exhausted population gave him what he wanted through a dubious election process: power. Since then, Liberia has remained one of the poorest and most mismanaged countries in Africa. Taylor looted the treasury and ravaged the country’s last rainforest to pay for his own lavish lifestyle with sales of tropical hardwood. Taylor systematically fomented war in each of the three countries on Liberia’s borders: Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. The worst atrocities were committed in Sierra Leone. Beginning in 1991, Taylor sponsored, trained and armed the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) which pillaged the Sierra Leone countryside, using diamonds smuggled through Liberia to pay for their weapons. An estimated 75,000 Sierra Leoneans died and more than a million lived as refugees for the better part of a decade. Thousands of innocent men, women and children had their hands and feet chopped off by the RUF – a terror tactic to clear the diamond fields of people.
Seventeen thousand UN peacekeepers had to be sanctioned for Sierra Leone. Now the Security Council has approved 15,000 for Liberia, making these the two largest UN peacekeeping operations in history.
Charles Taylor must answer the charges brought against him by the Special Court. The UN Security Council and the Commonwealth must ask Nigeria to extradite Taylor immediately. Allowing Taylor to escape justice sends the worst possible message of encouragement to other warlords, and it tells the Sierra Leonean and Liberian victims of his crimes that the world does not care enough about justice to punish a tyrant whose whereabouts are known, and whose comfortable lifestyle is an affront to decency.