Global Policy Forum

Taylor Loses War Crimes Appeal

May 31, 2004

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has lost his appeal against being prosecuted for war crimes

The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone ruled that it does have the right to try Mr Taylor for his alleged role in the 10-year Sierra Leone civil war. Mr Taylor had argued that he should be entitled to immunity because he was a serving head of state. He is now in exile in Nigeria after stepping down as Liberia's president last August.

Mr Taylor is accused of backing the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels who were notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians in Sierra Leone during the war, which ended in 2002. He now faces 17 charges of crimes against humanity and other breaches of international law.

Blood and diamonds

Mr Taylor's lawyers appealed even before his trial had begun. Among their arguments, they said the court was a national body and therefore its jurisdiction did not extend beyond Sierra Leone. The prosecution says Mr Taylor backed the RUF in exchange for diamonds worth hundreds of millions of dollars. An estimated 50,000 people were killed during a decade of fighting and many thousands more were mutilated.

The court says it is now up to Nigeria to hand over the former Liberian leader. He has been living in exile in the south Nigerian city of Calabar since stepping down last August as part of a deal to end his own country's civil war. His lawyers say he has no plans to leave. Nigeria has previously rejected calls him to extradite Mr Taylor, saying giving him asylum was the only way to end 14 years of fighting in Liberia.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on the Special Court for Sierra Leone
More Information on Charles Taylor


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