Former Liberian President Charles Taylor arrives at UN court in Sierra Leone

29 March 2006

A United Nations helicopter transporting former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who has been indicted for war crimes, arrived today in Sierra Leone, where he is now being held by the UN-backed court for the country.

The Prosecutor of the Special Court, Desmond de Silva QC, said that Mr. Taylor’s detention was a landmark for international justice and sent out a message that no matter how powerful a person is, the law is always higher.

“Today is a momentous occasion and an important day for international justice, the international community and above all, the people of Sierra Leone. The indictee Charles Taylor has today been safely secured and is now in the detention facility of this international criminal tribunal here in Freetown,” said Mr de Silva.

“His presence in the custody of the Special Court sends out the clear message that no matter how rich, powerful or feared people may be – the law is above them.”

Mr. Taylor had been indicted by the UN-backed court in Sierra Leone on charges related to his support for rebels in that country, with the Prosecutor originally indicting him on 3 March 2003 on 17-counts for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone.

Earlier this month the Special Court amended the indictment to charge Mr. Taylor with 11 counts which, according to a UN press release, will ensure a more focused trial although “the thrust and gravity of the former indictment is in no way diminished.”

“In summary, he now stands indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including sexual slavery and mutilations,” it stated.

Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters and also said in a statement that he was “relieved” at the recapture of former President Taylor, who absconded from his home in Nigeria yesterday, where he had been exiled three years ago as part of a peace deal that helped bring an end to Liberia’s decade of civil war.

The statement says that Mr. Annan “strongly believes the capture and trial of Taylor will send a powerful message to the region and beyond that impunity will not be allowed to stand and that the rule of law must prevail.”