afrol News, 20 June - Liberia's ex-Dictator Charles Taylor today was flown out of Sierra Leone to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, accused of war crimes in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The transfer to the Netherlands was made possible after the UN security Council had approved of the airlift and after Britain had offered prison facilities for Mr Taylor if found guilty.
Today, the long discussion on what to do with the war crimes indicted Liberian leader finally found a sudden conclusion. Without any prior announcement, the UN-backed war crimes court of Sierra Leone sent Mr Taylor out of the country. Accompanied with a large number of armed UN soldiers, he was taken in helicopter from his detention at the court to the Freetown airport. Here again, armed UN peacekeepers firmly led Mr Taylor to a waiting UN aircraft, which took the Liberian to the Netherlands.
The secrecy surrounding the action, together with the high security alert, were a result of the supposed threat from Mr Taylor's many remaining armed followers in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The same security concerns had led to a plea by the governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone to try the ex-Dictator outside the region. His prolonged stay in Sierra Leone could provoke instability in the two countries, it was feared.
But a quick deportation of Mr Taylor after he was handed over to Liberia from Nigeria in March was to become complicated. The International Criminal Court in The Hague rapidly agreed to lend its ventures to the Sierra Leonean special court, but the Dutch government demanded guarantees for what would happen after Mr Taylor's possible conviction. Prison facilities in the Netherlands would not be available for Mr Taylor, the Dutch government said, and neither Liberia nor Sierra Leone wanted to house the ex-Dictator after a possible conviction.
The UN was involved in finding a possible host country for Mr Taylor, but received negative answers from Denmark, Swe
Ex-President Charles Taylor, seated in the aircraft flying him to The Hague.
den and Austria. Only last week, the United Kingdom offered to provide prison facilities for Mr Taylor if convicted, finally providing a solution to the three-month discussion on what to do with the 58-year-old Liberian.
The last formal hinder for his transfer to The Hague was cleared on Friday, as the UN Security Council approved of a transfer from Sierra Leone to the Netherlands. Being indicted for war crimes, Mr Taylor was not free to travel, thus necessitating an approval from the top world body. The UN resolution noted that Mr Taylor's presence in the region "is an impediment to stability and a threat to the peace of Liberia and of Sierra Leone."
Following the airlifting of the Liberian ex-leader to The Hague, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised the London government for its helping hand. Mr Annan further said he was "confident that Charles Taylor's trial will mark a further victory in the struggle to end impunity and will contribute to reconciliation in Liberia and the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia and in Sierra Leone."
In The Hague, Mr Taylor will have to answer accusations against him regarding his involvement in the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia and attacks on Guinea. The Special Court says it can document that Mr Taylor financed and trained the brutal RUF rebels of Sierra Leone during the 1991-2001 civil war, where an estimated 120,000 persons were killed. A large number of civilians suffered from mutilations and rape. The Liberian ex-President is said to have been deeply involved in the RUF's illegal diamond trade.
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