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Move to put ex-Liberia president Taylor on trial should serve as warning: UN prosecutor

[JURIST] The latest effort to put former Liberian President Charles Taylor [PBS profile; JURIST news archive] on trial for crimes against humanity at the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] should be seen as a warning to the "world's warlords that they cannot escape justice," said Special Court Chief Prosecutor Desmond de Silva [official profile] in an interview with Reuters Sunday. De Silva said Taylor's case was on a par with that against the late Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] in key respects: "With the departure of Milosevic, if Taylor's trial is taken to a conclusion he will be the very first head of state in history to have been indicted whilst he was in office and against whom a trial has been completed." While Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo [official profile] consults with leaders from the African Union [official website] and the Economic Community of West African States [official website] on precisely how to respond to Liberia's request [JURIST report] last week to transfer Taylor to the court, De Silva believes the negotiations will end favorably. If they do, Taylor would join nine other defendants currently on trial for war crimes by the Special Court. Some critics of prosecution say Taylor's removal will disrupt the fragile stability in Sierra Leone and Liberia, established with the help of UN peacekeepers, but De Silva maintains that Taylor is "a much bigger threat where he is."

Taylor has been living in exile [JURIST report] in Nigeria since 2003 as part of an international agreement ending Liberia's civil war. He was later indicted [text; SC-SL case materials] by the war crimes court on charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] and other international humanitarian laws for supporting the insurgency of rebels in Sierra Leone. The court has ruled [PDF decision] that Taylor is not immune from prosecution [JURIST report] as a former head of state. Reuters has more.

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