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UN Rights Chief Favors Taylor Handover to

Liberian Observer
July 13, 2005

But Louise Arbour says it is 'unfair' to ask a new Liberia government to make the decision on Taylor's transfer. "The African leadership should stand by Obasanjo and convince him to send Taylor to court; it is not one man's decision."

At the end of her weeklong visit to Liberia, United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour on Wednesday said the swift transfer of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor to the War Crimes court in Sierra Leone was in the best interest of Liberia. "I have always been of the view that Charles Taylor should be in Freetown to address the charges against him," the high commissioner for human rights said at the end of the final leg of a three-country west African tour. "We cannot make justice be subservient to peace; that is a grave mistake. Peace is not sustainable without justice."

Taylor faces 17 counts of war crimes for having mounted a rebel army in Sierra Leone including drugged-out child soldiers who waged a brutal decade of war marked by the rape and hacking off of limbs of civilians in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in blood diamonds. Despite allegations that he has repeatedly violated the terms of his asylum with continued meddling in Liberia's political affairs, Taylor has so far evaded trial in his exile in Nigeria, a reward for quitting the presidency in August 2003 to end Liberia's own civil war, its second since 1989.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has rejected a wave of international pressure to hand Taylor over. He accused those calling for Taylor's transfer of "harassment and blackmail" against Nigeria in an effort to turn the former Liberian leader over to war crimes tribunal. On Wednesday, Arbour acknowledged the unfair position in which Nigeria found itself but said it was incumbent on both Obasanjo and his African counterparts to do for Liberia, facing presidential elections in October, what it was not yet capable of doing itself. "It will be very unfair for the new government in Liberia to have to bear the political burden of calling for Charles Taylor's transfer to Freetown," she said. "But it is also in a sense very unfair to have called on President Obasanjo to have done the right thing two years ago and to now put pressure on him to go back on his word," she added. "The African leadership should stand by Obasanjo and convince him to send Taylor to court; it is not one man's decision."

Arbour's remarks likely came as comfort to a coalition of African rights advocates backed by international watchdogs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who urged in a statement Wednesday that she use her time in west Africa to push for Taylor's extradition.

Taylor evidence?

Meanwhile, an organization called Liberia United For Transparent Election says it has evidence on Charles Taylor's activities that prove that he is a threat to peace in the sub region. The organization says on several occasions it has contacted officials of the Nigerian Foreign Ministry and presented to them documents detailing Charles Taylor's current meddling activities which include money he has paid to political parties and candidates contesting the Liberia elections and meetings he held with Guinean dissidents in the last week in December 2004. "In that document we included date, time, place and amount paid directly by Mr. Taylor to carry out an operation against Guinea and the names of the Guinean dissidents involved. We also made mentioned in that document the places in and outside Nigeria where Mr. Taylor had made unofficial visits," Sam Sanyon director of the organization states in a press release emailed to The Independent.

Charles Taylor is suspected of funding some political parties in Liberia to contest the forthcoming elections so as to have an overwhelming influence in the next government. "We at the Liberian United for Transparent Election are taken aback by statement made by President Obasanjo who is also Chairman of the African Union on July 4 2005 in Libya that he objected strongly to persistent pressures from certain quarters in the International Community demanding Nigeria hand over former Liberian President Charles Taylor to the international Criminal Court sitting in Sierra Leone",, the release states. "President Obasanjo's statement is a clear indication that he will continue to shelter Taylor from justice, deprive we the peace -loving people of Liberia and Sierra Leone the peace, security and, justice that we need in our region", it adds. "We are surprised Nigeria is asking for new evidences when we have presented the Foreign Ministry with mounting evidences about Charles Taylor's activities in and out side Nigeria".

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