Annan hails moves hastening war crimes trial of Liberian ex-leader Taylor

15 June 2006

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today hailed the British government’s decision to allow former Liberian President Charles Taylor serve in the United Kingdom any prison sentence imposed on him by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a move that makes it possible to transfer the war crimes trial to The Hague in the Netherlands.

“I am very grateful to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett for this statesmanlike decision, which marks another step forward in our battle against impunity for the most heinous crimes,” Mr. Annan said in an opening statement at a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

The UN-backed Court in the Sierra Leonean capital of Freetown, where Mr. Taylor faces an array of charges, including crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, has sought the transfer of the trial from Freetown to the Netherlands for security reasons.

Turning to another region, Mr. Annan said he was “greatly distressed” to hear that over 60 people were killed and more than 40 injured in Sri Lanka when a civilian bus was blown up by a mine. “It is wholly irresponsible and unjustifiable for combatants in any cause to plant mines that can have this kind of tragic result,” he declared.

“And it shows how desperately important it is for all parties in Sri Lanka to renew the ceasefire and halt the slide back into full-scale civil war.”