BreakingNews.ie reports that concerns are growing about the risks involved in holding Charles Taylor’s trial in Sierra Leone.
Prior to these concerns being publicly raised, a contingent of Irish troops (part of a greater number stationed in Liberia) had been placed on standby to provide security at the Special Court of Sierra Leone, and to evacuate staff and inmates of the Special Court if the situation in Freetown became too dangerous.
It has been suggested that the trial might take place in The Hague.
The report states:
Charles Taylor trial in Africa ‘too risky’
31/03/2006 - 08:46:40
Trial in Africa is too risky for a man accused of fomenting bloodshed across West Africa, international prosecutors said in requesting that Charles Taylor’s trial for crimes against humanity be moved to The Hague in the Netherlands.
The former Liberian president is set to become the first African head of state tried for war crimes before an international court. He has been indicted on 11 counts for allegedly supporting a brutal rebel movement in Sierra Leone, Liberia’s neighbour to the north.
He helped pioneer the use of child soldiers, often kidnapped from their parents and drugged, and his fighters are still believed to roam Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia.
“(Taylor’s) mere physical presence back in the region could be disruptive and destabilising and we’ve heard reports that Sierra Leoneans are worried that his trial in particular could cause security problems,” said Edgar Chen, a lawyer with the Coalition for International Justice, yesterday.
His first court appearance, expected to be at the UN-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone, won’t be before Monday, said Peter Andersen, a spokesman for the tribunal, which was convened to try those held most responsible for the horrors of Sierra Leone’s civil war.
Andersen said court officials had requested the trial be moved. “But I wish to stress that it would be the Special Court of Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague,” he said.
In the Netherlands, Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Dirk-Jan Vermeij said the Sierra Leone court’s request that the Hague-based International Criminal Court host the trial ”says that holding Taylor’s trial outside Sierra Leone could help stability and peace in the region”.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also raised concerns about stability yesterday, saying in an address to her nation that The Hague would be a “more conducive environment” for Taylor’s trial than so close to Liberia, where many still support him.
“The government wishes to make it abundantly clear that those who would try to use these circumstances as an excuse for insurrection to undermine the stability of the nation will be dealt with harshly, without mercy,” Sirleaf said.
David Crane, the former chief prosecutor of the Sierra Leone court, said in an interview yesterday that security in Freetown was ample.
But “Charles Taylor is the first sitting head of state ever to be indicted for war crimes (in Africa), and is second only behind Slobodan Milosevic, so people are a little bit nervous,” said Crane, who drew up the original indictment against Taylor. “Prudence is always an important part of justice, but justice will be done. So it’s not anything that is going to skew the results.”
African leaders have been brought before international tribunals before: Jean Kambanda, prime minister of Rwanda at the beginning of that country’s 1994 genocide, pleaded guilty to genocide before a UN tribunal. He was Rwanda’s head of government.