Accessibility links

Breaking News

Activists Mixed Over Britain's Offer to Jail Taylor

Human rights activists are giving mixed reviews to a decision by Britain to jail Charles Taylor if Liberia's former president is convicted for his role during Sierra Leone's civil war. The decision paves the way for the trial to be held in The Hague.

The Dutch government says its conditions have been met for hosting Charles Taylor's war crimes trial.

A foreign ministry spokeswoman said she expects a U.N. Security Council resolution to be adopted within a few days to make the move possible.

Mr. Taylor has been in jail at the Freetown special court in Sierra Leone's capital, awaiting the transfer, which Liberia's government asked for on security grounds.

The Netherlands had said it would only host the trial if a country came forward that would jail the former Liberian rebel turned president in case of a conviction.

After several rejections by other European countries, Britain came forward. The minister for Foreign Affairs, Margaret Beckett, said Britain has a strong international reputation as one of the world's leading advocates for international justice.

A West Africa researcher for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, Corinne Dufka, welcomed the move.

"We are very encouraged by these developments," she said. "We believe that the failure of any country, until today, to take this on was regrettable, particularly given the security concerns that prompted this relocation request. So we are very encouraged and relieved that the British government has finally come forward and agreed to take Mr. Taylor if convicted."

But Ibrahima Kane, the Africa specialist for a London-based group advocating international norms of justice, says Mr. Taylor should not get special treatment, compared to other war crime suspects who will remain in Sierra Leone.

"If they take only one person, not only try him in Europe, but also keep in custody in Europe, this is discrimination," he said.

He also says victims of the war will miss out on the whole process.

"I think Charles Taylor must face the reality of Sierra Leone," he added. Charles Taylor must face the reality of prison in Sierra Leone and I think that if that is done people will believe in Sierra Leone that justice is done. As we say in English, justice should not only be done, but also should be seen to be done, and in this particular case it is not the reality."

Mr. Taylor pleaded innocent in early April after the 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity he faces were read to him in Freetown. He is accused of having organized Sierra Leone's brutal rebellion to control its diamond fields.