A U.N. Security Council delegation is adding pressure to bring former Liberian President Charles Taylor to trial for his role in the Sierra Leone civil war.
During an eight-day tour of West Africa aimed at promoting stability and dialogue in the region, Britain's U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said Mr. Taylor should not be allowed to go on living in exile and avoiding impending war crimes indictments.
Mr. Parry made the statement during a brief stop in Liberia Thursday. The delegation is now in Sierra Leone and on Monday will visit Nigeria.
Mr. Taylor has been charged with war crimes by the special United Nations-backed court in Sierra Leone, but now lives in exile in Nigeria, where he was granted asylum last August. Nigeria said it granted Mr. Taylor asylum so that the civil war in Liberia could end and has refused to hand him over for trial. It has been under pressure by some African governments, including Liberia's, not to hand over Mr. Taylor until the peace process in Liberia is further consolidated.
The International Crisis Group's West Africa director, Mike McGovern, says that while there are human rights concerns supporting bringing Mr. Taylor to justice, there are also diplomatic reasons for continuing his safe asylum, one being Nigeria's promise of impunity for Mr. Taylor.
"That's important and if you go back on a promise like that, certainly Nigeria wouldn't have much credibility to do the same kind of thing again," said Mr. McGovern. "On the other hand, you have the principle of justice. This guy is responsible for a tremendous number of deaths and suffering and should be brought to the books."
The U.N.-backed special court in Sierra Leone indicted Mr. Taylor in June of last year for bearing the greatest responsibility for the civil war in Sierra Leone and has been asking ever since for his arrest.
Its indictment accuses Mr. Taylor of arming and training rebels in exchange for diamonds.
The head prosecutor of the court, David Crane, said he hopes pressure from the international community will eventually succeed.
"There are numerous initiatives that are being done to have Charles Taylor delivered appropriately and fairly to this court so that he can face an appropriate trial against those 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity," Mr. Cane added.
Diplomats from the U.N. delegation say the Taylor issue will be discussed when they meet with top officials Monday in Nigeria.