And what if Taylor walks?

24 August 2010 by Bram Posthumus

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor, is in court to defend himself on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he allegedly committed in Liberia’s neighbour to the west, Sierra Leone. Liberian media cover the trial extensively but Liberians are, to all intents and purposes, mere spectators. This trial is not about them. Liberia lacks a war crimes tribunal. What it does have is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which has been taking countless statements from war crimes victims and perpetrators and whose report is in the public domain.

The UN and the Sierra Leone government installed the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in 2002. In June 2003, David Crane, its chief prosecutor, had Taylor indicted for war crimes allegedly committed in Sierra Leone. Two months later, Taylor left Liberia in the midst of chaos and bloody struggle as rebels pounded the capital Monrovia with mortars. His departure was the result of a deal struck principally between himself, the Economic Community for West African States and the African Union, the nub of it being that he would not be arrested and would stay out of Liberian politics. Taylor went to stay in Calabar, Nigeria.

What changed? Anyone’s guess but late March 2006 the world was treated to the bizarre spectacle of Taylor first “disappearing” from his villa, days before Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was supposed to meet US president George W Bush, and then Nigerian security forces miraculously “finding” Taylor again near the border with Cameroon. (International Justice Tribunal reported on that chain of events here.) A few days later, Taylor was in The Hague and Obasanjo had his meeting with Bush.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

21 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Being the ICC's Chief Prosecutor is a delicate and politically sensitivejob.ForLuisMorenoOcampo it has been "the best job in the world." Fatou Bensouda will be taking over his office in June. She inhe

07 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

December 7, 2011 Ivory Coast is the latest playgroundoftheInternationalCriminal Court. This week the courtroom in The Hague became its theatre of justice. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo proudly p

07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

07 December 2011 by Lindy Janssen

Brazil is booming. The economy is expanding and the country is getting ready to host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. But the Latin American giant has not even begun dealing wi

07 December 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

The primary purpose of the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, as proclaimed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its appeal judgement in July, should have been to hear testimonies of two "key" witnesses who proved unwilling to testify in the original trial in 2007. Almost four months into the retrial which started in mid-August, its stated aim has not yet been achieved.