Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was captured as he attempted to escape Nigeria on March 29, and he was transferred to the U.N.-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone. Human Rights Watch played a leading role in pressing government and U.N. officials, publicly and privately, to ensure that Taylor would be held accountable for his alleged crimes. We helped keep the issue of Taylor’s arrest alive in the press and with policy makers. We met last year with new Liberian president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and publicly called on her to request Taylor's surrender. She has acknowledged that international pressure was a major factor in motivating her to make the request during her presidency.
Taylor has been indicted by the court for war crimes and crimes against humanity for supporting rebel forces guilty of killings, mutilations, sexual violence, and the recruitment of child soldiers during Sierra Leone’s brutal war. His arrest is enormously significant for the victims of his crimes, who have long awaited justice. It is a milestone for promoting the rule of law in West Africa, which has been devastated by violence. And it heralds a strengthened commitment by the international community to international justice—to holding the perpetrators of the world's most heinous crimes accountable for their actions. Human Rights Watch will continue to work to ensure that Taylor's trial is fair and effective. We will also press the international community to provide adequate financial support to the court in Sierra Leone, which has suffered consistent financial shortfalls.