Da Mail & Guardian del 21/06/2006
Originale su http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=274989

Taylor arrives at The Hague in chains

di Stephanie van den Berg

Liberia's former president Charles Taylor, once one of Africa's most feared warlords, spent his first morning in detention in The Hague on Wednesday after being flown in to face war crimes charges over some of the worst atrocities committed in Africa.

Taylor landed in The Netherlands on Tuesday evening and was led from the airplane with his hands tied into vans waiting to take him to a detention centre in The Hague around 20km away, where he arrived about 30 minutes later.

The 58-year old warlord-turned-president will eventually be tried by a branch of the Sierra Leone tribunal using the premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

He is being held in the same detention centre that housed former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic who died here in March while on trial for war crimes, charged before the United Nations court for the former Yugoslavia.

It is not clear what will happen next but an ICC spokesperson told Agence France-Presse the Sierra Leone court would hold a press conference at 9.30am GMT on Wednesday in The Hague "explaining the procedures that will follow".

Kofi Annan welcomed the transfer of Taylor to The Netherlands, the UN chief's office said.

Annan voiced confidence that Taylors trial "will mark a further victory in the struggle to end impunity and will contribute to reconciliation in Liberia and the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia and in Sierra Leone".

Earlier on Tuesday Taylor was moved under tight security from his cell in Freetown Sierra Leone to Lungi International airport, from where the UN-chartered jet took him to The Netherlands.

Airport workers who saw Taylor escorted to the aircraft at Lungi airport said the handcuffed former warlord was wearing a dark brown suit and appeared "sombre".

Taylor had been detained in Freetown since late March after his capture in Nigeria where he had been living in exile since August 2003.

He has been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and violations of international human rights.

Specifically, he is accused of sponsoring and aiding rebel groups which perpetrated murder, sexual slavery, mutilation and conscription of child soldiers in Sierra Leone's civil war in exchange for a share in the lucrative diamond trade. In his first appearance before the court Taylor pleaded innocent to all charges.

He is seen as the single most powerful figure behind a series of civil wars in Liberia and neighbouring Sierra Leone between 1989 and 2003 which left around 400 000 people dead.

If convicted Taylor would serve a lengthy prison term which, given his age, would effectively mean life in jail, according to court officials.

His relatives protested his transfer, which they said had been planned for Wednesday. They feel he could be cheated out of a fair trial, they said.

The transfer to The Hague was given the green light last Friday by the UN Security Council, two days after Britain said that it would provide a prison for him to serve his sentence should he be found guilty.

The Security Council cited fears that Taylor's continued presence in West Africa "is an impediment to stability and a threat to the peace of Liberia and of Sierra Leone and to international peace and security in the region".

Taylor was caught near Nigeria's northern border in late March while trying to escape to Cameroon, two days after vanishing from the Nigerian villa where he had lived comfortably in exile since 2003.

His attempts to flee Nigeria followed Abuja's decision to extradite him at the request of the Liberian government.

Since his detention, the Sierra Leone court has dismissed a bid by Taylor challenging attempts to change his trial venue.

Last month a Sierra Leonean prosecutor accused US citizen Michael Chemidlin and two Sierra Leoneans of plotting to spring him from jail after they were caught taking photographs of the 44ha Special Court complex.

The detention centre in The Hague has been built to highest UN standards. The cells, which remain open during the day, all have a bed, a desk and an individual toilet. Detainees have access to telephones and television and the prison has a room for conjugal visits.

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