By Emmanuel Abalo
This writer is stunned and taken aback by the ambiguous positions by some Liberian political operatives, particularly on the Charles Taylor extradition to face the Special Court in Sierra Leone to answer the indictments. According to news reports emanating from a presidential debate held on August 19, 2005 in Monrovia, among the first four presidential candidates, namely Messers Togba Nah Tipoteh, Roland Massaquoi, Varney Sherman and Ms Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf , organizers and the media sought a simple commitment from the contenders: “Who is willing to turn over former President Charles Taylor to the Special Court in Sierra Leone?”
The answers of the contenders ranged from .”lets not personalize this matter .” to “Charles Taylor will come to this country if the Liberian people decides so and the leadership will have no option but do accept that.”
According to the a media release issued by INTERPOL on December 04, 2003, in Lyon France, “At the request of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Interpol has issued a Red Notice for former Liberian President Charles Taylor. This is in accordance with a cooperation agreement between Interpol and that court, finalized in November 2003. Charles Taylor resigned as President of Liberia on 11 August 2003 and was granted asylum in Nigeria. The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established as a result of UN Security Council Resolution 1315 of 14 August 2000. It has indicted Charles Taylor on charges of crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Convention and other serious violations of international law.”
The position of the international community is unified and crystal clear. There is a 17-count indictment issued on March 7, 2003 by the Special Court for Sierra Leone against Mr. Taylor. For the record, Mr. Taylor made an application to the Special Court in which he sought to have the indictment and arrest warrant quashed citing the benefits of immunity as a Head of State and jurisdiction of the Court. His application was adjudicated and subsequently dismissed. Liberia is not before the court. Taylor is and rightly so. Considering international law, its is quite clear that states’ sovereignty does not inhibit the prosecution of Heads of State before an international tribunal
The argument is made by ECOWAS, the Nigerian government and the African Union that they have no credible information that Mr. Taylor is “meddling” in the political affairs of Liberian, which is a violation of the terms of his asylum deal. Thus, they are resisting pressure and calls to turn Mr. Taylor over to the Special Court but have hinted they may consider releasing Mr. Taylor to a duly elected Liberian government after the October election. This is besides the point. If Liberians, through their government, demand that Mr. Taylor accounts for his alleged crimes, then so be it!
It is quite understandable that some politicians and lay people are terrified of the possibility that Taylor’s return to Liberia may regenerate another murderous chapter. Remember his parting words just before Mr. Taylor flew into exile, ?God’s willing, I shall return…” . Additionally, Liberians have been brutalized and humiliated and killed over and over and over by prior governments.
The only comfort here is the fact that failed leaders like Idi Amin of Uganda, Jean Bedel-Bokassa, of the Central African Republic, Mengistu Haile Meriam of Ethiopia, Slobadan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, among others, have yet to return to power!
The bold, honest and right answer by any of the presidential aspirants should be a clear, unequivocal and unambiguous commitment to the rule of law; in this instance requesting for and turning over Mr. Taylor to the Special Court so that justice can be served. There is no room for legal and political acrobatics for any future leader in this matter!
The dignity of Liberians and their nation must be restored by our leaders who should be prepared to honor and respect human rights and international law. Liberians have a right to demand a straight forward commitment for justice from their leaders and hold them to it.
Reconciliation is identifying the wrong, accountability and restitution.
The author, Emmanuel Abalo is an exiled Liberian journalist , media and human rights activist. He served as a former News Director of the erstwhile Catholic owned ELCM Community Radio and later with the Liberian Broadcasting System (ELBC). He is the former Acting President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) . Mr. Abalo presently resides in Pennsylvania, USA and works as an analyst with CITIGROUP, North America.