Monday, April 17, 2006

Trying Taylor in Africa

The New York Times has a piece today by the former Sierra Leonean ambassador to the United States, John Leigh. Leigh argues that Charles Taylor should be tried at the Special Court in Sierra Leone, rather than being shipped off to the Hague.

While acknowledging the problems that keeping the former Liberian president would pose -- security risks chief among them -- he argues that the benefits of trying him in Africa (by a U.N. backed court) outweigh the costs. I tend to agree. The need to have the VIPs of the war criminal community tried outside of the jurisdiction in which they committed their crimes perplexes me. This is particularly the case here, where they have already established a special court to handle it. What is the message? Sierra Leone is fine to try the little people, but the ex-president of a neighbouring state needs to be prosecuted in Europe where they have real courts. As Leigh points out, witnessing the process of justice is important for Sierra Leone as it attempts to transition into a stable democracy where the rule of law applies to everyone.

Trying someone in an international setting may make sense when nation that they victimized really can't, or won't, put them on trial. But barring that, their victims deserve to see justice served at home.

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