The capture of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor is being welcomed in Sierra Leone, where he is accused of fueling the country’s long civil war. The U.N.-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone indicted Taylor several years ago on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ambrose James is the program manager for the NGO Search for Common Ground, which deals with conflict resolution. From Freetown, he spoke to English to Africa Joe De Capua about Taylor being taken into custody.
“The capture of Charles Taylor is welcome news because when the people heard about Charles Taylor’s escape in the last two days it was quite a disappointment to a lot of people in Sierra Leone because the Special Court has been seen as an institution that was supposed to be punishing people that bear the greatest responsibility for human rights abuses.”
James says if the court tries Taylor it will be followed very closely in the country. Asked whether such a trial would be part of the country’s healing process following the civil war, James says, “I think it’s part of the process. You know we had the truth and reconciliation commission and that one ended and the flip side of that, or the opposite of that, was supposed to be the war crimes tribunal or the Special Court, as it is called in Sierra Leone. For the equation to be complete you need to have those transitional justice mechanism in place – and for people to rest assured that these things do not happen again. I know one is for reconciliation and one is for punishing people, but those things go side by side.”