Thursday, August 11, 2005

Nigeria: Surrender Taylor to War Crimes Court

(New York, August 11, 2005) - Two years after former Liberian
President Charles Taylor fled Liberia for exile in Nigeria, Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo should no longer allow Taylor to
escape prosecution for crimes against humanity and war crimes
committed during Sierra Leone's civil war, the Campaign Against
Impunity said today. Nigeria should immediately surrender Taylor
to face trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

The Campaign Against Impunity, a coalition made up of some 300
African and international civil society groups was formed to ensure
Nigeria's surrender of Charles Taylor to the Special Court for
Sierra Leone. Taylor has been accused of 17 counts of war crimes
and crimes against humanity against the people of Sierra Leone by
the Special Court. The crimes include killings, mutilations, rape
and other forms of sexual violence, sexual slavery, the recruitment
and use of child soldiers, abduction, and the use of forced labor by
Sierra Leonean armed opposition groups.

Despite mounting international pressure from African countries,
the United Nations, the European Union and the United States,
Nigeria continues to resist surrendering indicted war criminal
Charles Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Most
recently on July 28, the Mano River Union, which consists of
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, issued a communiqu?, which
agreed to call for a review of Taylor's temporary stay in Nigeria.

"Nigeria is swimming against the tide of international justice," said
Shina Loremikan, director of the Committee for Defence of
Human Rights (CDHR), a Nigerian organization that is part of the
Campaign Against Impunity. "The international community is in
agreement that Taylor must be surrendered to the Special Court for
trial. It is high time that President Obasanjo did the right thing by
turning Taylor over to be tried for his alleged crimes."

The campaign stressed that Taylor's trial must take place in
accordance with international law and standards for fair trial,
including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt.

Surrendering Taylor to the Special Court is crucial not only to
ensure justice is done for crimes committed during the Sierra
Leone conflict, but also to ensure stability in West Africa, the
Campaign Against Impunity said. There are consistent reports of
Taylor's interference in Liberian politics, despite the terms of the
agreement granting him asylum, which prohibits any such
meddling.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and, more recently, the Mano
River Union have expressed concern over Taylor's potential for
fomenting instability in the region. The July 28 communiqu?
issued by the Mano River Union cited allegations of Taylor's
involvement in an attack on the Guinean president, gathering
armed people in the forests of Liberia, and making telephone calls
to Liberian officials. In his June 7 report on Liberia, the U.N.
secretary-general stated that Taylor is reportedly in regular contact
with former business, military and political associates in Liberia
and is suspected of supporting candidates in Liberia's October
presidential election.

"On the second anniversary of Charles Taylor's flight to Nigeria,
his continued impunity is undermining the rule of law in West
Africa and putting civilians in the region at risk," said Richard
Dicker, director of the International Justice program at Human
Rights Watch, which is part of the campaign.

"African leaders owe it to their people to work vigorously with
President Obasanjo to see that Taylor faces trial expeditiously,"
Kolawole Olaniyan, Africa program director at Amnesty
International, which is also part of the campaign.

The first public call for Nigeria to surrender Taylor to face trial
came from the European Parliament in February of this year in the
form of a resolution. Later in May, the U.S. House of
Representatives and Senate passed similar resolutions. During a
visit to West Africa last month, the U.N. High Commissioner for
Human Rights Louise Arbour called for Taylor to appear for trial
at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and for African leaders to
urge President Obasanjo to hand over Taylor.

The campaign called on members of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) to follow the example of the
Mano River Union and speak out on the need for Taylor's
surrender to the Special Court. SADC is holding its annual summit
in Gaborone, Botswana in the coming days.

"The moment for Taylor's surrender to the Special Court is now,"
said James Paul Allen, a Sierra Leonean human rights activist
involved in the campaign. "The indictment for Charles Taylor on
war crimes and crimes against humanity must be honored. The
victims in Sierra Leone who suffered grave crimes under
international law should not be forced to wait any longer."

Partners in the Campaign Against Impunity in Nigeria and
elsewhere in Africa held events today, including interfaith services
in Lagos and Calabar (the city where Taylor now resides), to mark
the second anniversary of Taylor's arrival in Nigeria with a call for
his surrender.

To view this document on the Human Rights Watch web site,
please visit: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/08/11/sierra11623.htm

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