(Rapaport…March 30, 2006) Sierra Leone’s Special Court, due to try former (Liberia) President Charles Taylor for war crimes, has requested the future trial be held at The Hague, Netherlands, for security purposes.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry told the press it would consider the request. Sierra Leone fears that if Taylor’s trial was held locally, supporters could threaten violence and provoke civil unrest across the region.
Taylor is to make his first appearance before the court on March 31 in Freetown, and will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes; crimes against humanity involving mutilation and sexual slavery. Taylor will face charges that he used diamonds in exchange for supporting rebels who raped and maimed residents of Sierra Leone.
It is widely expected that Taylor will plead not guilty, to which Sierra Leone’s Special Court chief prosecutor, Desmond de Silva, said a trial would be the next step and most likely months away. In the event such a trial finds Taylor guilty of charges, he faces a life term in jail, but the 58-year old would not receive the death penalty.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf urged the United Nations Security Council to approve a change of venue from Sierra Leone “to a more conducive environment such as…The Hague.”
The Security Council has to provide legal grounds for the court to reside at The Hague.
Ahead of Taylor’s first court appearance, the United Nations placed a contingent of troops from Ireland and Mongolia in Freetown for security purposes.