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Charles Taylor to Make First Court Appearance Monday

Legal proceedings continue for former Liberian president Charles Taylor, even as it looks more likely that his trial will be moved to The Hague. Taylor, who’s been indicted on war crimes charges relating to Sierra Leone’s civil war, is currently in the custody of the UN-backed Special Court there.

As the UN Security Council considers the move, the president of the Special Court has asked the government of the Netherlands and the president of the International Criminal Court to facilitate the move. English to Africa reporter Joe Bavier is in Freetown and met Friday with the prosecutor’s office at the Special Court. He told English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the meeting:

“I met with the assistant special prosecutor, the assistant to Mr. (Desmond) de Silva, who’s just taken over the case against Charles Taylor. He informed me that they expect to see the first appearance of Charles Taylor in court in Freetown either Monday or Tuesday. This initial appearance, as it’s called, has to take place under law as soon as possible. They expect that will be early next week.”

Meanwhile, efforts for a change of venue continue, as does the debate over the issue. According to Bavier, “The debate at least in Freetown isn’t as heated as I would have thought. Most people I’ve talked to here are happy to see him (Taylor) go to The Hague. They feel he can get a fair trial there without causing the potential instability in the region that many fear. That, however, is not up to either the government of Sierra Leone or even the Special Court itself. As the assistant special prosecutor told me, they expect that a UN Security Council resolution will be taken to allow the transfer. They’ve been in negotiations with the government of Holland, who they say has already agreed to allow the trial to take place in Holland. They are also negotiating for facilities where they can hold the trial and detention facilities for Taylor himself. They’re actually negotiating with the new International Criminal Court, which is based in The Hague, for those facilities. Though they make the clarification that the ICC may participate on that level, on a practical level the case itself will still be conducted by the Special Court in Sierra Leone.”