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Taylor Will Ultimately Have to Face Justice, says UN Prosecutor - 2003-06-25

The chief prosecutor for Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal is calling on the international community to help stop the fighting in Liberia, even as rebels threaten an all-out battle for the capital, Monrovia. David Crane is pursuing Liberian President Charles Taylor's indictment on war crimes charges, and warning the Liberian leader will ultimately have to face justice regardless of whether his government is able to face down rebels.

Even with the Liberian capital now under rebel attack, President Taylor is showing no indication of a leader whose country may be slipping away from him. "There is very little place for this indictee to run. He can not run. He can not hide," Mr. Crane said.

David Crane is the chief prosecutor for the United Nations-backed war crimes court for Sierra Leone, whose indictment accuses President Taylor of crimes against humanity for supporting a brutal campaign by rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians.

"When the inevitable possibly happens, there is still an obligation to turn, Charles Taylor alive over to the court so that he can be publicly and fairly tried for the crimes for which he's charged," Mr. Crane said.

Earlier this month, a warrant was issued for his arrest while he was attending peace talks in Ghana. But Ghanaian authorities refused to act on it and allowed him to return home.

"He has to come to the terms with the fact that he has very few options left to implement. And though he certainly can run into the bush, the indictment still stands and there's no statute of limitations on a war crimes indictment," Mr. Crane said.

Monrovia is now under rebel mortar fire. A cease-fire was broken after President Taylor refused to abide by a pledge he made at those Ghana talks to resign in the interests of peace. Despite United Nations proposals for a peace-keeping presence in the country, no troops are on their way to Liberia. And so Liberians prepare to face the same situation they have so many times before over the past decade or so.

"I think the international community needs to step up and in fact move in and stabilize the situation in Liberia. I see very little leadership in this area right now. They can not turn away from the situation," Mr. Crane said.

Led by Britain's U.N. ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, the U.N. Security Council is sending a delegation to West Africa to try to convince Charles Taylor to step down. The United States has proposed sending someone to monitor the short-lived cease-fire. But as he was preparing to leave New York, Ambassador Greenstock said any new mission to Liberia is in search of a nation prepared to lead it - as France has done in Ivory Coast and Britain in Sierra Leone.