The UK, the US and Nigeria are stalling efforts to extradite indicted war criminal and former Liberian president Charles Taylor from Nigeria to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which has charged him with a range of 17 war crimes and crimes against humanity (1).
This issue links into the heart of G8 efforts on poverty in Africa because warlords such as Taylor have used the profits from trading in conflict resources including diamonds and timber. This has driven countries in West Africa further into poverty. The profits from conflict resources were used to fund rebel groups, including the RUF in Sierra Leone who were supported financially and militarily by Taylor and who were internationally notorious for their horrendous war crimes, including hacking the limbs off men, women and children. Resource trading continues to be at the heart of a number of conflicts in Africa including Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
If Bush and Blair are serious in their crusade on poverty in Africa, then they must ensure that Taylor is handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone to face trial.
Global Witness (2) today launches a briefing document, ’A Time for Justice’, detailing the continued threat that Taylor poses to West Africa including his ongoing contact with key military and government figures in Liberia and his influence over a number of Liberian political parties (3). According to representatives of the Special Court and other diplomatic correspondence, Taylor was also behind an assassination attempt against Guinean President Lansana Conte in mid-January 2005 and has been secretly travelling to Burkina Faso and Chad to meet key associates, plan operations and receive financial support (4).
“We now have the bizarre situation where Washington’s official position, stated by the US Embassy in Nigeria, is that Charles Taylor should be handed over”, says Simon Taylor, Global Witness Co-Director. “Meanwhile, there are significant players at high levels running around Washington undermining the good-faith effort of the US State Department to resolve this matter. Just exactly who is in control? The key question is to what extent does this whole mess have to do with Charles Taylor previously having been on the payroll of US military intelligence?”
Says Simon Taylor, “This ridiculous situation makes a mockery of Bush’s stated policy of promoting democracy and freedom – especially in Africa – and he urgently needs to sort out the chaos that is allowing Taylor to slip through the net.”
For press inquiries please contact Simon Taylor of Global Witness at +44 (0) 207-561-6380 or +44 (0) 795-714-2121.
Notes for the Editor:
(1) For a full list of the charges filed against Charles Taylor, see the Special Court for Sierra Leone website at www.sc-sl.org.
(2) Global Witness is an investigative non-governmental organisation that focuses on the links between natural resources exploitation and conflict. Global Witness was awarded the prestigious Gleitsman Foundation Award for International Activism in 2005, and was co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. For more information on Liberia, see previous Global Witness reports at www.globalwitness.org.
(3) Global Witness interviews with UN, diplomatic, military and civil society representatives, 2003-2005; Global Witness interview with former western military intelligence officer, April 2005; confidential diplomatic correspondence dated April 2005 as seen by Global Witness; ‘Sixth progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Liberia’ (S/2005/117), 17 March 2005; ‘Following Taylor’s Money: A path of war and destruction’, Coalition for International Justice, May 2005; Dino Mahtani, ‘Taylor accused over attempt to kill Guinea leader’, The Financial Times, 27 April 2005; Douglas Farah, ‘A Protected Friend of Terrorism’, The Washington Post, 25 April 2005; Ryan Lizza, ‘Charles at Large’, The New Republic, 25 March 2005.
(4) Global Witness interview with former western military intelligence officer, April 2005; Special Court document dated January 2005 as obtained by Global Witness; Mahtani, April 2005; Lizza, March 2005.
Press Release / June 6, 2005