Since March 29th, former Liberian president Charles Taylor has been held in a detention center in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He is to face trial for crimes allegedly committed during the Sierra Leone civil war in the 1990s. Talks are underway to have Taylor transferred to The Hague in the Netherlands, where the Special Court on Sierra Leone would judge him in a more secure environment.
The Dutch government has agreed to host the trial on the condition that Taylor, if convicted, be jailed in a third nation.
Attorney Elise Keppler is Counsel to the International Justice Program of the New York-based organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW). She spoke with English to Africa reporter, Howard Lesser, about the important role of the European community in this situation.
“From our perspective, countries really should be lining up to address this issue, and given that the Court requested the transfer of Taylor’s trial on the basis of security concerns, and in fact, the Liberian President has endorsed this request and echoed concerns about security, we think this issue really needs to be urgently resolved.”
Keppler says HRW believes the European community can take a number of approaches to resolving this problem. “If a particular E-U state doesn’t step forward, we see this as a collective E-U issue and think that the E-U needs to come together and collectively commit to take Taylor if convicted and figure out the details later.”
After three days of discussion, the participants at the Brussels meeting have failed to reach a decision.
Keppler says the next round of deliberations will consist of an EU ministerial meeting with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) planned for Monday in Vienna, Austria. She says, “This issue needs to be dealt with at that meeting and is a crucial opportunity for the European Union to step up and do the right thing by offering to take Taylor if convicted.”
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