Thursday, March 30, 2006

Another War Criminal Nabbed -- They're Doing Something Right

I've waited to post news of Charles Taylor's whereabout until things shook out, and now it's safely confirmed: the crazy-mad psycho-loon dictator of Liberia is in custody and will be socked back to Sierra Leone, site of the relevant court, for what promises to be a very intensely depressing trial. (Some want the trial moved to The Hague in The Netherlands for security reasons. See my earlier post about a similar idea for the trial of Iraqi henchmen.) For those of you not familiar with this man's antics, he set up roving bands of poor teenage militias who cut off the hands, feet and lips of "government enemies," a set of the population that gradually expanded to include about 97 percent of the country. He will definitely be found guilty -- the question, as with Milosevic and Saddam, is how well the trial establishes a feeling of reconciliation and how much of the historical record can be finalized. In this case, though, there's the wrinkle of there not being quite the Stalinist state terror apparatus we're used to in a trial for crimes against humanity. It was bloodletting, quick and dirty. A further wrinkle is that the Nigerian government had set Taylor up in relative luxury while in exile and accidentally oops made a mistake and "lost track of him" as he was supposed to be escorted into custody several days ago, which led to the brief manhunt that has now concluded. Nigeria is embarrassed. Bush doesn't really know the difference but got to play big man when the Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, came to visit this week.

A few paragraphs to get you started:
On Tuesday night, police caught Taylor in northern Nigeria, wearing a safari suit and carrying sacks full of dollars and euros in his car, which bore diplomatic plates. He was trying to cross the border to Cameroon. He was captured nearly 600 miles from the villa in southern Calabar where he lived in exile and from which he reportedly disappeared Monday night.

Taylor's imprisonment was a watershed moment for the tribunal and for West Africa, a region long shaken by Taylor's warmongering.

"Today is a momentous occasion, an important day for international justice, the international community, and above all the people of Sierra Leone," said Desmond de Silva, chief prosecutor of the tribunal called the Special Court.

"His presence in the custody of the Special Court sends out the clear message that no matter how rich, powerful or feared people may be, the law is above them."


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