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UK willing to incarcerate Taylor if ex-leader convicted of war crimes charges

[JURIST] UK Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett [official profile] said Thursday that Britain will take custody of former Liberian President Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] if he is convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website], as long as authorizing legislation is passed by parliament. In a statement [text], Beckett said that as long as parliament passes new legislation to permit the UK to recognize the convictions of the SCSL, the UK would accept Taylor to "demonstrat[e] the UK's absolute determination to see the alleged perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes held to account." Beckett's statement further said that "[w]ere the Court to acquit former President Taylor, we would not be required to allow him to come to the UK. Were he to be convicted, and subsequently released after serving a sentence, the expectation at this stage is that former President Taylor would leave or face removal from the UK." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the UK decision [UN News report] saying it "marks another step forward in our battle against impunity for the most heinous crimes."

Earlier this month, the Swedish parliament passed a law permitting Taylor's incarceration [JURIST report] but the Swedish government has not yet indicated whether it would be willing to take custody of Taylor. The former Liberian president has been indicted [PDF text] by the SCSL for crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape and the recruitment and use of child soldiers during the war in Sierra Leone. The SCSL wants to move Taylor's trial to The Hague [JURIST report] for security reasons, but the Netherlands has said that it will only agree to host the trial if the SCSL finds a country willing to imprison Taylor if he is found guilty [JURIST report] and a country that will grant him asylum if he is acquitted. Reuters has more.

1:57 PM ET - A Dutch Foreign Ministry [official website] spokeswoman said Thursday that with Beckett's announcement all conditions that the Netherlands had set for hosting the trial had been satisfied. The UN Security Council must now pass a resolution authorizing the transfer and the spokeswoman said that the resolution is expected to be drawn up in within the next several days. AFP has more.

5:56 PM ET - The Special Court for Sierra Leone has welcomed the UK's offer to take custody of Taylor if he is found guilty, calling the move "a significant step." Rights activists in Sierra Leone, however, said that the trial should remain in Africa so that those affected by the war have the opportunity to witness the trial. AFP has more.

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