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Sierra Leone court seeks move of Taylor trial to Hague: Dutch foreign ministry

[JURIST] The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] said Thursday that the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] has asked the country to host the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in The Hague. A spokesman from the Dutch Foreign Ministry said that the request was based on concerns that keeping Taylor's trial in Sierra Leone could cause instability in the region or further threaten peace. Earlier this month, after Liberia formally requested that Nigeria transfer Taylor [JURIST report] to the war crimes court for trial, residents of Sierra Leone expressed similar concerns [JURIST report] that Taylor's presence in the country could stir up fresh violence and undermine peace.

The Dutch spokesman said that the Netherlands would consider the UN-backed court's request, but said that certain conditions would have to be met before the Netherlands would agree. A resolution from the UN Security Council or other legal basis would be needed for the Special Court to sit in The Hague and Taylor would be required to leave the country after a verdict has been delivered. The Sierra Leone court would also be required to work with one of the other international courts that sit in The Hague, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or the International Criminal Court, to arrange for the use of a court room and prison facilities. Taylor faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity under an amended indictment [PDF summary; SCSL case timeline, PDF] for his role in supporting violent Sierra Leonian rebels and masterminding several West African regional conflicts which claimed up to 300,000 casualties. Reuters has more.

10:49 AM ET - A spokesman from the International Criminal Court [official website] has told the BBC that the ICC has been asked to host Taylor's trial and said that the request is being considered. Ernest Sagaga stressed that even if the trial were to be held at The Hague, the case would remain under the jurisdiction of the Sierra Leone court. In a radio address in her country, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said that she supported "a change in venue to a more conducive environment" and said that Taylor must be ensured "the right of a vigorous self-defense." BBC News has more.

4:58 PM ET - According to a statement from the Sierra Leone tribunal, Special Court President Justice A. Raja N. Fernando requested that the trial be tried in The Hague due to "concerns about the stability in the region should Taylor be tried in Freetown." Fernando's request is in accordance with Rule 4 of the Special Court's Rules of Procedure and Evidence [PDF text], which allows the president to authorize a Trial Chamber to operate away from the seat of the court. According to the court:

A Headquarters Agreement would need to be secured to allow a chamber of the Special Court to sit outside of Freetown. A United Nations Security Council Resolution would also be required by the Government of the Netherlands to provide the legal basis for the Court to sit within its national jurisdiction.
Read the full press release [PDF].

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