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Posted: 6/5/2003 7:10:25 PM EDT
[url] http://ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=18626 [/url] CRC
Link Posted: 6/5/2003 7:43:56 PM EDT
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Link Posted: 6/5/2003 7:50:16 PM EDT
How did a shrew become president of Liberia? [;)] POLITICS-LIBERIA: President Taylor 'a Wanted War Criminal' - Court Lansana Fofana FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, Jun 5 (IPS) - Charles Taylor, the first African head of state to be indicted by a U.N. court for war crimes, is a shrew political manipulator and survivor. Taylor, who seized power in Liberia in 1997 after eight years of a bloody bush war, should have been in the U.N. custody in the Sierra Leonean capital of Freetown, by now. But something went wrong. The court attempted to have him arrested and extradited from Ghana on Wednesday but the Ghanaian authorities claimed they were not officially informed. In fact, he was flown back to Liberia the same day on board a Ghanaian official aircraft and was received by crowds of enthusiastic supporters in the capital Monrovia. ”We are waiting for an opportunity when Mr. Taylor would travel out of the country since he would not willingly extradite himself from Liberia,” Robin Vincent, the court's registrar, said on Thursday. The court on Wednesday published in Freetown the indictment of Taylor, who was away in Ghana, for peace talks with rebels fighting to overthrow his government. The court's prosecutor David Crane told journalists Wednesday that Taylor is now a ”wanted war criminal”. Taylor, 55, has been charged for his alleged role in the brutal 10-year-long civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone, which ended in 2002. ”I am appealing to the international community to help in arresting and turning over Charles Taylor who has been indicted for war crimes,” Crane added. The court revealed that Taylor had been indicted since March together with Sierra Leone's warlords Foday Sankoh and Issa Sesay of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Sam Hinga Norman of the pro-government militia, known as ”Kamajors.” But Taylor's indictment was not immediately made public, as the court was waiting for ”an opportunity when Mr. Taylor would travel out of the country”. On Thursday a spokesperson for the Liberian government at the talks in Ghana told journalists that ”the indictment of a sitting President will amount to a declaration of war.” ”The Liberian people will not accept it,” he said. In Monrovia, a government spokesperson was also quoted as saying that the Liberian government ”does not recognise the authority of the court.” In Sierra Leone, however, people were elated at the news of the indictment. ”The indictment of Charles Taylor by the Special Court is the greatest news I have ever heard for years. They should arrest and bring him for trial immediately,” remarked Ebie Cole, a social worker in Freetown. John Musa, a teacher in Freetown, said: ”I saw it long coming. Taylor was behind the war in Sierra Leone and he must be held to account for his deeds.” Francis Sesay, 22, whose hand was hacked off by rebels during the war, said: ”This is time for justice. Taylor and his stooges in the RUF maimed us and destroyed this country so he must be tried.” But some fear the whole exercise may be counter-productive. Adama Kamara, a civil servant in Freetown, said: ”We have set up a court which aims to prosecute Charles Taylor. I only fear this may cause a spillover into Sierra Leone, of the Liberian war.” Taylor, whose political opponents have been either killed or fled the country, is indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law. This makes him, according to the court, bearing the greatest responsibility for despicable crimes committed during the course of the war. Taylor is being accused of gun-running and smuggling of so-called ”blood diamonds” that helped sustain the RUF's war machinery. ”The problem now is how to apprehend and transfer President Taylor to the custody of the court,” said Joe Conteh, a political commentator in Freetown. ”It would require the determined intervention of the international community,” he added. With the indictment of President Taylor, the number of those now charged for war crimes has risen to ten. One of them, former Sierra Leone junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, is on the run, and a former RUF Commander Sam Bockarie, alias ”Mosquito” is believed to be dead. Both have indictments served on them. Taylor, born to Americo-Liberian parents, studied in the United States. He returned home shortly after Sergeant Samuel Doe seized power in Liberia in 1980. He was immediately appointed to run the General Services Agency, a position that meant controlling much of Liberia's budget. Doe accused him of embezzling 900,000 U.S. dollars and fled back to the United States. He ended up in prison in Massachusetts, Boston, detained under a Liberian extradition warrant. Under mysterious circumstances, Taylor, who denied the charges, escaped and flew to neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire to launch his bush war which was to last from 1989 to 1997. His indictment comes at a time when his government is under tremendous pressure from disparate rebel forces fighting to oust him. Whether Taylor would be arrested and transferred to the court in Freetown is yet to be seen. But fighting in 11 of Liberia's 15 regions has affected half the country's estimated three million people, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Liberia also hosts around 17,000 Sierra Leone refugees, at least 38,000 Ivorian refugees and nearly 44,000 returning Liberians who fled conflict in neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire. These too have been endangered by the fighting. Roman Catholic Arch-Bishop Michael Francis hopes the talks in Akosombo, Ghana, will be the last one. ”Liberians are fed up with conferences that often turn out to be meaningless,” he says. Liberia, founded by freed American slaves in 1847, has had 13 peace conferences, which brought chaos and death, as they were not built around complete disbarment and demobilisation of warring factions.
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