[JURIST] The former UN Chief Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] who signed the indictment [PDF text] of ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor in 2003 Saturday hailed Nigeria's promise to hand over the former warlord [JURIST report], telling JURIST that "This is a great day for the people of Africa and for justice for the tens of thousand of victims" of Taylor's military adventures in Sierra Leone. In the 1990s Taylor armed the Revolutionary United Front [NPS backgrounder], a group vying for control of the country's lucrative diamond mines that engaged in a bloody rampage of killing, kidnapping and mutilation against civilians. Crane's March 3, 2003 indictment charged Taylor with 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was initially unsealed on June 4, 2003 as Taylor arrived in Accra, Ghana to allegedly begin the peace process to end the Liberian civil war. Last week Crane publicly added his voice to Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's call for Nigeria to hand Taylor over to Liberia, writing in a JURIST op-ed that the time had come "for justice to begin in West Africa."
A Taylor spokesman in Nigeria nonetheless insisted Saturday that African leaders who had helped to negotiate the eventual peace agreement had agreed that Taylor could not be tried, saying, according to Reuters "There are many African leaders whose countries have a conflict situation, like Sudan, Uganda, Congo... They may no longer have faith in an African solution and they may not agree to step down voluntarily as President Taylor did." Nigeria has consistently declined to hand Taylor over to the Special Court directly, but had suggested that it would respond to a Liberian request to have him transferred home. If Taylor is brought before the Special Court he would be the first African head of state to appear before an international war crimes tribunal, and only the second leader in history after ex-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who died earlier this month in the fifth year of his trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Reuters has more.