Exiled Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor Arrested in Nigeria
Exiled Liberian “warlord” Charles Taylor has been arrested Nigeria for extradition to Sierra Leone for war crimes charges. Taylor helped foment civil wars in two countries that led to more than 300,000 dead and is widely considered among the most vile men of the last quarter century.
AP’s Bashir Adigun:
Taylor, a one-time warlord and rebel leader, is charged with backing Sierra Leone rebels, including child fighters, who terrorized victims by chopping off body parts. He would be the first African leader to face trial for crimes against humanity. While the Sierra Leone tribunal’s charges refer only to the war there, Taylor also has been accused of starting civil war in Liberia and of harboring al-Qaida suicide bombers who attacked the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than 200 people.
It would be wonderful, indeed, if Taylor is held accountable for his crimes against humanity and it helps change a tragic pattern of behavior in Africa.
There are, however, some legitimate concerns here. For one thing, the United States negotiated in 2003 for Taylor to step down, ending the 14-year civil war in Liberia. Even the UnitedNation’ss Kofi Annan, who loves international tribunals, opposed this handover because it sets a bad precedent. Why would future despots surrender and accept exile if they can simply be hunted down later, without the trappings of power, and be handed over for trial?
And it is not simply a matter of Sierra Leone pursuing Taylor separately; it was done with the full backing of the United States:
Liberia’s new president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said in an interview with The New York Times before her inauguration in January that Mr. Taylor’s fate was a relatively low priority, given the myriad problems facing Liberia and the fragility of the peace there. But under intense political pressure on a visit to the United States earlier this month, including a threat by Congress to withhold aid to Liberia if she did not act, she asked Nigeria to hand Mr. Taylor over.
Kayode Fayemi, a Nigerian political analyst who has worked with Ms. Johnson Sirleaf to secure peace in Liberia, said the United States might have made matters worse for Liberia by pushing the country to deal with Mr. Taylor before it was ready. “She was actually literally harassed to do what she did,” Mr. Fayemi said. “This is now going to make the situation much more complicated and so much worse.”
Not only for Liberia but also for the U.S. Again, why would anyone take a surrendered settlement seriously if we will renege soon thereafter?
Aside from all that is the sham of these international tribunals. The practice started in the aftermath of World War II, with show trials in Tokyo that most now agree were shameful acts of revenge rather than justice and the more well-regarded Nuremburg tribunals. Since then, they have been applied after the fact as acts of healing but with decidedly mixed results. The most recent examples, SlobodanMilosevick and Saddam Hussein, have been farcical.