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Former Special Court Chief Prosecutor Says No Peace in Liberia Until Charles Taylor Faces Justice

The former chief prosecutor for the Sierra Leone Special Court says unless Charles Taylor is brought to justice the new government of Liberia is at risk.

David Crane says the time to bring the former Liberian leader to trial is now. He signed the war crimes indictment against Taylor about three years ago. Taylor is in exile in Nigeria, but Liberia’s new president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, says she recently asked Nigeria to turn him over for prosecution. David Crane is now a law professor at Syracuse University in New York State. He was asked by English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua whether he’s confident Taylor would be turned over.

“Well, I’m not confident he will be turned over. (Nigerian)President Obasanjo does not want to turn him over. But the ball clearly is in his court and he’s also clearly in violation of international law and Nigerian law. It’s a crack in the wall of impunity in Africa. The good old boy network of Africa, the heads of state, many of which have skeletons in their closet, do not want to see a sitting head of state indicted, which has happened. But certainly don’t want to see him turned over for justice at an international level,” he says.

Asked why he doubts Obasanjo would act since he is a founding member of Transparency International and campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, Crane replies, “There’s the West Africa that is and there’s the West Africa that you see. It’s the West Africa that is that he operates in and certainly he has to work with and deal with the other heads of state.” He also says Nigeria’s Foreign Minister has stated that Taylor would not be turned over.

As for the accusation Taylor is putting the new Liberian government at risk, he says, “Charles Taylor hangs like a sword over Liberia. Politicians, heads of state, various cabinet ministers, civil society, businessmen are all looking over their shoulder…As Charles Taylor was being pulled out of Liberia after the indictment stripped him of his power he said, ‘God willing, I’ll be back.’ And all of us that were there at the time certainly believed it and they believe it now.”