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Nigeria: Obasanjo Must Act Now on Taylor

New Liberian President Meets with Nigerian President; Justice Crucial for West Africa

(Lagos) – When Liberia’s newly elected president visits Abuja on Friday, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo should announce that Nigeria will promptly surrender Charles Taylor to face trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Campaign Against Impunity said today.

President Obasanjo’s meeting with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on March 3 will follow his reported talks last Sunday in Lagos with former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

“President Obasanjo has an opportunity to demonstrate Nigeria’s commitment to the rule of law in West Africa,” said Shina Loremikan, director of programmes for the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, a Nigerian organization that is part of the Campaign Against Impunity. “When he meets with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President Obasanjo should announce he will surrender Taylor to face trial for his alleged crimes.”

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up in 2002 to try those most responsible for war crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s armed conflict. Charles Taylor has been accused of 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court. The crimes include killings, mutilations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, sexual slavery, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, abduction, and the use of forced labor by armed opposition groups.

In 2003 Charles Taylor left Liberia for Nigeria. Nigeria acted with the support of the United States, the African Union and other actors in the international community in taking Taylor in as a temporary measure to secure a peaceful transition in Liberia.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has thus far been reluctant to surrender Charles Taylor to the Special Court. He has indicated, however, that he would consider surrendering Charles Taylor upon request from a duly-elected Liberian government.

“President Obasanjo should act now and do the right thing by surrendering Charles Taylor to the Special Court,” said Voke Ighorodje, secretary of the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court, an organization that is part of the Campaign.

The Campaign stressed that Charles Taylor’s trial must take place in accordance with international law and international standards for fair trial.

“The Special Court will not be around for much longer,” said David Anyaele, executive director of Amputees Rehabilitation Foundation, a Nigerian organization that is part of the Campaign. “This valuable opportunity to bring justice to the victims must not be squandered.”

The Campaign Against Impunity is a coalition of some 300 African and international civil society groups that was formed to press for Charles Taylor’s surrender to the Special Court. Nigerian partners in the Campaign are holding a press conference today in Lagos to urge for President Obasanjo to surrender Taylor.

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