Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Charles Taylor - former president of Liberia

Delivered in Plenary - February 24th 2005

Mr President

Africa has for too long been torn by civil strife, hunger, economic mismanagement and blatant corruption. It is now at last beginning to get its own house in order with Regional blocks and Continental wide supranational institutions committed to observe international human rights law such as ECOWAS and the African Union.

Charles Taylor as a former warlord ruled Liberia between 1997 and 2003 as a bloody dictator sanctioning rape and summary executions at the end of that country's 14 years of bloody civil war but was forced into exile as part of a peacemaking deal mediated by Nigeria. During his reign the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions on Liberia because of the abuses by Taylor. In power he supported the Revolutionary United Front in neighbouring Sierra Leone which in alliance with renegade soldiers overthrew President Kabbah in 1997 having wreaked havoc in the country since 1991 with tens of thousands of civilians brutally slaughtered including with the use of child soldiers.

The War Crimes Tribunal in Freetown, Sierra Leone, is a hybrid mix of national and international justice with UN backing and aims to be a model for other war courts not set-up under mandatory Chapter 7 resolutions . Taylor has been indicted by the court but Nigeria is refusing to extradite him claiming he has sovereign immunity and benefits from the asylum deal they agreed to. A child rights group FOCUS is calling for his surrender to the Sierra Leone Court directly blaming Taylor for the limb amputation of thousands of women in children in Sierra Leone, and also ordering bloody cross border raids into Guinea.

We know sovereign immunity no longer applies for war crimes but they have also pointed-out that Taylor has breached the terms of his asylum by interfering in Liberian politics ahead of the elections scheduled there for October by financing parties sympathetic to him with money he obtained corruptly through the diamond trade when in power. He presumably hopes with a change of government he will be allowed back.

President Obasanjo of Nigeria is currently Chairman of the African Union and his country must set an example and end impunity for bloody tyrants by handing him over.