[JURIST] United Nations [official website] officials and armed peacekeepers took former Liberian President Charles Taylor [JURIST news archive] into custody Wednesday in Monrovia after he was transported to Liberia following his capture [JURIST report] by Nigerian officials in an attempt to flee the country. Taylor disappeared from his villa [JURIST report] Monday in the southeast Nigerian city of Calaban where he spent the last two and a half years in exile as part of a deal to end the civil war in Liberia [JURIST news archive]. Upon his arrest, he was transported by helicopter to Sierra Leone where he will stand trial before the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] on 17 counts [indictment] of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1991-2002 Sierra Leone civil war. Taylor is accused of supporting violent Sierra Leonian rebels and masterminding several West African regional conflicts which claimed up to 300,000 casualties.
Until his capture, Taylor's disappearance prompted heavy international criticism against Nigeria. In a meeting with President Bush Wednesday, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo dismissed criticism [transcript] of his government's handling of the situation:
I do not agree, must disagree that we have been negligent in the way we handled the Charles Taylor issue. If we had been negligent then Charles Taylor would have got away. He would not have been arrested if there was connivance or condonation on our part.Bush said the capture will help Liberia and is a signal of Obasanjo's "deep desire" for peace. Reuters has more.
7:18 PM ET - In a statement [PDF] from Freetown, Sierra Leone, SCSL Chief Prosecutor Desmond de Silva hailed Taylor's arrival at the court and his reception into custody at the court's detention center Wednesday as "a momentous occasion and an important day for international justice, the international community, and above all the people of Sierra Leone." De Silva also noted that under an amended indictment against Taylor issued by the court March 16, he is now charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other severe violations of international law, including sexual slavery and mutilations. The reduction in counts from the original 17 would, he suggested, "ensure a more focused trial."