|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-322989 Sierra Leone / Prosecutor (L-only)
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT (REFILE)
TITLE=SIERRA LEONE / PROSECUTOR (L-ONLY)
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HEADLINE: War Crimes Prosecutor: Former Liberian President Taylor Still a Threat
INTRO: The out-going lead prosecutor for Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal says former Liberian President Charles Taylor remains a threat to the stability of West Africa. Gabi Menezes reports from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Abidjan.
TEXT: Prosecutor David Crane wants Charles Taylor, who was indicted two years ago on 17 counts of crimes against humanity, to be brought before the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone as soon as possible.
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"Charles Taylor hangs like a dark cloud over Liberia, and he needs to be turned over to the special court for Sierra Leone. He continues to meddle, not only in Liberia, but other countries within the region."
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Human rights groups have called on Nigeria, where Charles Taylor now lives, to hand him to the special court. But Nigeria has said that it will not do so, unless Liberia makes the request.
Mr. Crane says the former Liberian president is in contact with the current Liberian government, and, if Liberia holds elections, there is a danger that Mr. Taylor's party could win.
Charles Taylor is accused of backing rebel movements in Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war, which left 50-thousand dead.
Critics of Sierra Leone's special court say that its authority has been undermined by its failure to try the former Liberian president. Mr. Crane, who will be leaving his post in July, says that he is proud of the accomplishments of the special court, where he has served for three years. He says Nigeria's decision to give asylum to Charles Taylor in 2003, when rebels besieged the Liberian capital, must be seen in context.
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"This was a political arrangement to get Charles Taylor out of Liberia, to ensure that peace could start. That is something I called for during my press conference, when I unsealed the indictment against him. And again, this is all part of a process. The peace has begun in Liberia, but now it's time for justice."
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A researcher for the Washington-based monitoring group, Human Rights Watch, Corinne Dufka, says it should have been made clear from the start that Mr. Taylor's Nigerian asylum was temporary.
However, Ms. Dufka commends the general success of the war crimes tribunal, which she says has renewed Sierra Leoneans' faith in justice. She says that, for the first time, with the special court, you have people who are government ministers and people who have wielded a tremendous amount of power who are being brought to justice for their crimes.
Human rights groups want the United Nations to put more pressure on West African countries to hand over Mr. Taylor to the court. Thousands of rebels and militia fighters have been disarmed in Sierra Leone, which has become one of the United Nations' biggest peacekeeping successes in Africa. (SIGNED)
INTRO: The lead prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone is stepping down in July. Gabi Menezes in VOA's West Africa Bureau, asked David Crane about his work at the tribunal, what remains to be done and the failure so far of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to appear before the court to face war crimes charges.
Q: Mr. Crane, what exactly do you think the achievements of the special court in Sierra Leone are?
CRANE: "Well, again, the achievement is not about me. The achievement isn't about what the people in the special court are doing. The achievement is what we can do for the people in Sierra Leone to seek justice for the 500-thousand people who were murdered, raped, mutilated and maimed. And this tribunal is for and about the people of Sierra Leone. We have a good plan; we're moving forward, and the achievement is, the fact, that, I think, the people of Sierra Leone, and indeed West Africa, are beginning to realize that the rule of law is fair, that no one is above the law and the rule of law is more powerful than the rule of the gun. If I can walk away and know there is a - the beginning of a renewed respect for the law, then I would consider that in and of itself an achievement."
Q: Are you disappointed that Nigeria has failed to hand over Mr. Taylor to face war crimes in Sierra Leone?
CRANE: /// OPT /// Well, certainly, one is, you are presenting it all as finished related to Charles Taylor and Nigeria. /// END OPT /// The answer is that Nigeria hasn't failed to do anything. This is a political process. We are legally ready to receive him, we have been working with our colleagues in Nigeria, as well as in Europe and North America and elsewhere. In fact, there has been no line drawn. It is not a matter of if he should be turned over, it is the matter now of when he should be turned over in a politically acceptable time frame, and that time is moving rather quickly forward."
Q: How has the collaboration between international personnel and Sierra Leoneans worked to create a tribunal?
CRANE: "This is a collaborative effort, something we should all be very proud of, the special court. The special court was an experiment. It is the world's first hybrid international war crimes tribunal, and the question always was, can international justice be effectively and efficiently delivered in a politically acceptable timeframe, and the answer is, yes. And this is something that has been the work of West Africans and ECOWAS and Sierra Leone and the international community through the United Nations, and also with great help from NGO's. We should all be very proud of the fact we have a workable model and something to be used in the future."
OUTRO: That was David Crane, the lead prosecutor on Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal talking to Gabi Menezes for VOA.
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