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Chief Prosecutor Rejects Attempts at Intimidation by Charles Taylor Supporters

There’s no word yet Monday about when exiled Liberian leader Charles Taylor will be turned over to Liberian authorities.

Over the weekend, Nigeria announced that Taylor would be handed over, after three years in exile. He faces war crimes charges in Sierra Leone stemming from the country’s civil war.

Desmond de Silva is the chief prosecutor for the UN-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone. English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua asked him whether he’d been contacted by either Nigerian or Liberian officials about Charles Taylor.

“Firstly, it would be inappropriate of me to discuss what negotiations I’ve had either with the Liberian authorities or with the Nigerian authorities. The position at the moment is that the Nigerian authorities have made Charles Taylor available for collection by the Liberian authorities. And it’s a matter for the Liberian authorities to work out with Nigeria what the modalities should be.”

De Silva says as far as he knows, Taylor remains in Nigeria at this time.

De Silva rejects claims that Nigeria betrayed Taylor, saying the former Liberian president was only granted temporary asylum and that Nigeria’s president, Olusegun Obasanjo, had promised to turn him over if a legitimately elected Liberian government requested it.

Some of Taylor’s supporters have said there will be “chaos and bloodshed” if he is turned over for prosecution. De Silva responds, “There are even Hitler apologists still around, I expect. There are people who came out onto the streets to support (former Yugoslav Federation leader Slobodan) Milosevic.” De Silva says if Taylor, through his supporters, is trying to threaten or blackmail the court with threats of violence, “he will fail.”