In an interview with the associated press, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says her country does not need to try former leader Charles Taylor. President Sirleaf says she’d rather concentrate on rebuilding Liberia rather than bringing Taylor to court.
Taylor is scheduled to go on trial later this year for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to neighboring Sierra Leone’s civil war. He’ll be tried by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone at a courtroom at The Hague.
David Crane is the former chief prosecutor for the Sierra Leone Special Court. He says a special court is now needed in Liberia. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about president’s Sirleaf’s position on not holding a Taylor trial in Liberia.
“Certainly I respect President Sirleaf’s intentions and strategic looking forward, but it’s been my experience that you have to have truth plus justice to have a sustainable peace. And even though the truth is starting to come out about how Charles Taylor not only destroyed Sierra Leone, but Liberia. There’s going to have to be justice for the 600,000 or so Liberians, whose lives were destroyed during the tenure of Charles Taylor. So he destroyed two countries and the Special Court for Sierra Leone is addressing what he did to Sierra Leone. And now it’s eventually time for justice to be done in Liberia,” he says.
Crane says it’s not only about Taylor. He says a number of other individuals who allegedly bear responsibility for what happened in Liberia are still in the country. Some, he says, are in government.
But would trying Taylor in Liberia be comparable to ripping scabs off old wounds? Crane says, “It won’t actually. Yes, it will cause a temporary pain. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. The pain goes away quickly and the air allows the wound to heal…certainly these types of things cause an initial pain, but again, we have to think that rule of law or more powerful than the rule of the gun.”
He adds, “The people of Africa matter. And that if cynical warlords and leaders abuse them and commit atrocities against them, they know that their lives matter now. And the lives of 600,000 Liberians matter.
Crane is a professor of law at the Syracuse University College of Law.