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Thursday, March 30, 2006

BBC NEWS | Africa | Taylor trial 'may move to Hague'

BBC NEWS | Africa | Taylor trial 'may move to Hague' Taylor trial 'may move to Hague'
Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to host the trial of ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor.

The ICC said Sierra Leone's request to use The Hague as a venue was being considered, but stressed the African tribunal would still control the case.

The request has been backed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Mr Taylor, who was captured on Wednesday in Nigeria, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 11 counts, including responsibility for murder, rape and mutilation, relate to his alleged role fomenting war in Sierra Leone.

The former president's spiritual adviser, Kilari Anand Paul, has said Mr Taylor would be happy to face a trial in The Hague.

Instability fear

ICC spokesman Ernest Sagaga told the BBC News website that the ICC was examining the request from the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal to hold proceedings on its premises.

"It would be still under the jurisdiction of the Special Court for Sierra Leone," he said.

We still expect a resolution from the Security Council that will allow a change in venue to a more conducive environment, such as the international court at The Hague
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Liberian president

Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Dirk-Jan Vermeij said the Sierra Leone tribunal was concerned that if Mr Taylor's trial was held in the capital, Freetown, it could lead to instability in the region.

The Netherlands was willing to co-operate with a trial at The Hague provided certain conditions were met, Mr Vermeij said.

US President George Bush said on Wednesday that he was keen for the trial to be moved, but to do so would require a UN Security Council resolution.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believed it could be passed "relatively quickly", he added.

Guerrilla support

In a radio address to the nation, President Johnson-Sirleaf supported the moves to hold Mr Taylor's trial outside neighbouring Sierra Leone.

"We still expect a resolution from the Security Council that will allow a change in venue to a more conducive environment, such as the international court at The Hague," she said.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf said she had stressed that the UN had to ensure Mr Taylor was allowed "the right of a vigorous self-defence".

Others alleged to have committed war crimes in Sierra Leone are already on trial in Freetown.

However, observers fear Mr Taylor may still be able to mobilise a guerrilla army, capable of attacking the court in Freetown from the surrounding hills.

His supporters argue that a trial in Freetown could not be fair, even if the judges were international, because of the hatred felt by many Sierra Leoneans towards the man accused of starting their country's decade-long civil war.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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