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A Call For Nigeria To Arrest Charles Taylor - 2003-08-12

The group Human Rights Watch, HRW, is calling on Nigeria to arrest former Liberian president Charles Taylor and turn him over to the UN-backed special court in Sierra Leone.

In June, the court handed down an indictment against Mr. Taylor, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity. HRW says, “Taylor is accused of the most heinous of abuses.” Bronwen Manby is deputy director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. From London, she spoke to English to Africa Joe De Capua about Charles Taylor being given safe haven in Nigeria.

She says, “We don’t have a problem with him leaving Liberia and going to Nigeria, as such. Our problem is if he goes to Nigeria, he should be arrested and handed over to the special court for Sierra Leone. Asked how this compares to the granting of asylum to former dictators Idi Amin of Uganda and Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia, she says, “At the principled level, of course, there is no difference. People who are guilty of such terrible crimes should be brought to justice. At the practical level and the legal level in the case of Charles Taylor there’s one very important difference, which is in fact he has been indicted by a court, which is joint Sierra Leonean and international jurisdiction.” She calls him “a criminal on the run.”

But can Nigeria go back on its offer of safe haven? Ms. Manby says, “They have not in fact been absolutely precise about what their terms for Taylor coming to Nigeria are.” She says Nigeria should “live up to their statement that they are committed to international law,” saying that overrides later statements that it was important to remove Charles Taylor from Liberia.

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