(By Mohammed Legally-Cole)
Participants at the NGO’s Forum attending the 38th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR have demanded that the Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo arrest and surrender Charles Ghankay Taylor to the Special Court on Sierra Leone.
According to the participants who include members of Campaign Against Impunity, the African Commission has a responsibility to address the broad issue of impunity inAfrica by asking Nigeria to comply with the request for Charles Taylor, to be brought to justice for the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have committed.
November 11, 2005, the UN Security Council adopted resolution1638, empowering the United Nation Mission in Liberia to apprehend and detained former President Charles Taylor in the event of a return to Liberia and to transfer him or facilitate his transfer to Sierra Leone for prosecution before the Special Court for Sierra Leone and to keep the Liberia Government, the Sierra Leone Government and the Council fully informed.
Campaign Against Impunity ( a Coalition involving Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Open Society for Justice Initiative and over 300 African Civil Society Organisation) have consistently asked the ACHPR to take a stand in support of thousands of African especially women and children who are victims of Taylor’s alleged crimes, in accordance with its mandates under the African Charter on Human People’s Rights.
The Coalition has insisted that victims, their relatives and the society at large all have a vital interest in having individuals responsible for Human Rights abuses brought to justice, knowing the truth about past abuses, and receiving reparation for these violations. According to Kolawole Olanijan, the African Programme Director of Amnesty International, “bringing perpetrators to justice also sends a clear message that violations of human rights will not be tolerated and that those who commit such acts will be held fully accountable. The Civil society Organisations at this NGO’s Forum believes that bringing Charles Taylor to justice is essential in establishing the rule of law and to deter future human rights abuses in the West African sub-region”.
The fight against grave human rights violations such as those committed against the people of West Africa can only be won if this problem is tackled effectively “said Thompson Adebayo, the Executive Director of Liberia Watch for Human Rights.
Voke Ighorodje, Coordinator of Nigeria Coalition on International Criminal Court (NCICC) said during the NGO’s Forum that “the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights must join the fight against impunity and call on the Nigerian Government to promptly surrender Charles Taylor to the Special Court on Sierra Leone for trial in accordance with international standards of fair trial or to prosecute him in Nigerian Courts”. It should be noted that the prosecutor to the Special Court in Freetown indicted Charles Taylor on 3 March 2003. Official copies of the indictment and warrant of arrest were delivered to the Government of Nigeria by the court registry on the 27 November 2003, by the International Police Organization (INTERPOL) issue a “Red Notice” fpr Charles Taylor on the 3 December 2003. The indictment was unsealed on the 4 June 2003.
The effort to comply with the rule by surrendering Charles Taylor to the Special Courthave been resisted by the Nigerian Government and the African Union through the commendation issued in 2004. This has raised serious international concerns on the commitment of African leaders to the process of combating on Africa.
RESOLUTION ON IMPUNITY IN AFRICA
Full version of the resolution is as follows:-
Recalling numerous Human Rights abuses have plaque many part of Africa. African men, women and children have victims of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes recognized under international law.
Noting that suspected perpetrators are rarely brought to justice, while the victims have been frequently denied an effective remedy.
Noting that the Constitutive Act of the African Union expressly condemns and reject impunity.
Recalling that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights have also taking many initiatives and adopted resolutions on impunity in Africa.
Considering the fact that some African ex-president has been indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and execution of thousands of Africans.
Recalling the unspeakable suffering that Chadian people endure during Hissene Habre’s regime between 182-1990, also serious human rights violations suffered by Sierra Leoneans during the conflict in Sierra Leone by the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF/SL), forces loyal to Charles Taylor.
Recalling that in 2003, the Special Court unsealed an indictment against Charles Taylor charging him with seventeen counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity and other violations of international Humanitarian Law.
Deeply concerned, that the Refugee status granted by Nigerian Government to Charles Taylor in 2003, have effectively prevent his arrest and transfer to the Special Court.
Recalling the indictment of Hissene Habre by Belgian court, in 19 September 2005for crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, as well as the extradition request by Belgium.
Noting that all others perpetrators of human rights violations are still enjoying impunity.