<<previous  |  index  |  next>>

International Cooperation and Financial Support

The success or failure of the Special Court will depend in significant part on the international cooperation and financial support it receives from the international community.  As discussed in the introduction, former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s continued exile in Nigeria in the face of his indictment at the Special Court threatens to undermine the court’s ability to complete its work effectively.  Lack of adequate funding will also undermine the court’s ability to continue and complete operations on a sound basis.  Funds must further be provided to ensure that certain residual mechanisms, including witness protection and detention in accordance with international standards, function after the court formally ceases operations.

A. Cooperation

Lack of cooperation by Nigeria with the Special Court through its continued shielding of Charles Taylor from facing trial threatens to significantly undermine the court’s work to combat impunity.  Charles Taylor is indicted on seventeen counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in contributing to the deaths, rape, abduction, and mutilation of thousands of civilians during Sierra Leone’s civil war.  Nigeria’s harboring of Taylor goes against international law, undercuts the investment made by the international community to combat impunity in Sierra Leone, and is an affront to victims of the crimes committed in Sierra Leone. 

As expressed by a representative from Sierra Leonean civil society during a meeting about the court in March 2004, “Charles Taylor promised us we’d taste the bitterness of war and we got it.  The international community promised us we’d see justice but this won’t happen fully until Charles Taylor is brought before the Court.”175  A member of Sierra Leonean civil society also stated that Charles Taylor’s absence from the court “has created a crisis of relevance for the Special Court.”176

A recent ruling by the Special Court also removes any legal basis for Nigeria continuing to harbor Taylor.  On May 31, 2004, the Appeals Chamber ruled that Charles Taylor is not immune from prosecution before the Special Court, rejecting arguments by his lawyers that he is immune because he was a sitting head of state at the time of indictment.177  This is a landmark ruling that strengthens the principle that no one should be above the law when it comes to the most serious crimes, regardless of position, and removes any legal basis for Nigeria to harbor Taylor.  It would be a tragedy if this ruling were ignored and the Special Court’s work undermined by Nigeria’s continued shielding of Charles Taylor.  While the Special Court does not have U.N. Chapter VII authority to compel cooperation, the Security Council under Resolution 1478 has explicitly requested that states cooperate with the Sierra Leone Special Court.

Human Rights Watch has received credible information from sources inside Liberia that Taylor’s continued presence in Nigeria poses a risk to stability in West Africa.  Human Rights Watch was told that Taylor not only remains in frequent contact with members of his former government, but also that he may be supporting an insurgency composed of fighters loyal to him, including combatants from the former RUF, the Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU), and the Special Security Service (SSS), as well as numerous Guinean dissidents.178  Our sources indicate that the insurgency’s activities may include destabilizing Guinea, mostly likely in retaliation for the logistical support that Guinea gave to rebels from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy.179  Our sources tell us that recruitment is actively going on in Monrovia and other areas in Liberia, although no direct link between Taylor and this recruitment has been established.180  In addition to the crucial importance of affirming the rule of law in West Africa, Charles Taylor’s appearance before the Special Court could make an important contribution to helping to ensure stability in the region.

President Obasanjo has indicated that he might be willing to reconsider Taylor’s asylum in Nigeria once a Liberian government is democratically elected.181  However, elections are not anticipated in Liberia for at least a year182 and sectors of Liberian and Nigerian society have already made known their strong sentiment that Charles Taylor should be handed over to the Special Court.  A number of Liberian organizations officially embarked on a three month anti-impunity campaign on May 28, 2004.  According to communications from the campaign to Human Rights Watch, the campaign’s “firm message is that Liberians want Taylor to face a court of law for the horrific crimes he has been accused of, and specifically the Special Court of Sierra Leone as he is currently indicted there.”183  

Nigerians have equally emphasized their desire to see Charles Taylor appear before the Special Court.  The Nigerian law firm Aluko & Oebode recently filed petitions on behalf of two Nigerian businessmen requesting that the Nigerian High Court strip Charles Taylor’s asylum status in Nigeria.  These businessmen were reportedly tortured in 1999 by rebel groups in Sierra Leone supported by Taylor.  On June 3, 2004, the Nigerian High Court agreed to review Charles Taylor’s asylum status on the basis of this request.184  Following proceedings over service of court papers, the Nigerian High Court has now set September 15, 2004, as the date to commence hearing the case.185 

In the face of the legal, policy, and pragmatic necessity of Taylor facing trial before the Special Court, President Obasanjo has given no indication that he will deliver Taylor to the court.  We understand that the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, the United Nations, the United States, and South Africa were involved in the negotiations that led to former President Taylor leaving power in Liberia and obtaining asylum in Nigeria and failed to stipulate that the offer of asylum should be a temporary one to resolve the crisis at hand.186  We understand President Obasanjo now feels bound by a sense of honor because he gave his word to Taylor that he would not turn him over to the court.  However, we firmly believe there are larger issues at stake: stopping the vicious and destructive cycle of impunity in Africa and bringing a sense of justice to the countless victims of the crimes Taylor is accused of.  We urge Nigeria, particularly as a member of the Special Court Management Committee, to hand Taylor over to the Special Court.  We further urge other governments, including other members of the Management Committee, the U.N. secretary-general, and the Security Council to take up this issue publicly and privately with Nigeria.

B. Financial Support and Budgeting

As discussed in the introduction and throughout this report, the Special Court has struggled to secure adequate funding.  Increased funding for key areas of operations, including the Defense Office, the Protection Unit, the Chambers, and the Outreach Section, is needed to enable the court to complete its work effectively.  The condition on the April 2004 United Nations grant to the court that the grant will be reduced in the amount of any additional voluntary contributions should be removed to enable increased funding to be secured.

Disregarding the recommendation of the U.N. secretary-general, the agreement between the United Nations and the Special Court provides that the court will be funded through voluntary contributions.187  Moreover, the initial proposed budget – which was approximately $114.6 million for three years and equaled less than the average cost of just one year of operations at the ICTY for the years 2002 and 2003 – was cut to approximately $57 million due to difficulties in securing funding, although the total estimated budget had increased to about $76 million for three years as of March 2004.188  Voluntary contributions made to the Special Court total some $49.3 million.189 

Insufficient and insecure funding has undermined the court’s operations.  Court officials have needed to devote extensive time to raising funds and needed staff could not be hired because of uncertainty about whether the court would continue to have sufficient funds to operate.190  These problems underscore that funding a court through voluntary contributions is extremely problematic.  Special Court staff expressed frustration that the Management Committee has tended to focus its attention more on where to cut budgets proposed by the Registry than on zealously advocating with governments and the United Nations as to why additional funding is necessary to ensure that the court can function fairly and effectively.191

As of July 2004, voluntary contributions were expected to last the court only through the beginning of its third year of operations.192  In March 2004 the U.N. secretary-general requested that the United Nations provide crucial assistance for the Special Court to respond to the financial crisis in the amount of $40 million.193  Based on this request, the General Assembly authorized $16.7 million for the Special Court to fund operations from July 1, 2004, to December 2004.194  However, the condition placed on this grant – that any additional voluntary contributions made will reduce the grant in the amount of the contribution – makes it impossible for the court to secure adequate funding to ensure fair and effective operations.  Human Rights Watch urges the U.N. secretary-general to request and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions to recommend that the General Assembly remove this restriction immediately and authorize the remaining $23.3 million of the request to fund the court through December 2005. 

The Special Court is an historic initiative, which has made tremendous advances in a short time frame and on a tight budget.  It is essential that the Special Court receive adequate funding to make improvements in the areas detailed in this report.  We urge the Registry to support additional allocations for these areas, and for the Management Committee to advocate strongly on behalf of such funding.  We further urge governments to provide additional voluntary contributions and the U.N. secretary-general and General Assembly to intervene as necessary to address outstanding shortfalls.  To do otherwise would undermine the considerable investment of governments and the United Nations in this mechanism by weakening the court’s capacity to complete its work effectively.

[175] Representative of Sierra Leone civil society organization at a meeting held by the Special Court attended by Human Rights Watch, Freetown, March 5, 2004.

[176] Ibid.

[177] Rendering of Decision on Motion Made under Protest and Without Waiving Immunity Accorded to a Head of State Requesting the Trial Chamber to Quash the Indictment and Declare Null and Void the Warrant of Arrest and Order for Transfer of Detention (Taylor) (Appeals Chamber), May 31, 2004.

[178] Human Rights Watch interview with official with the National Transitional Government of Liberia, Monrovia, March 10, 2004, and August 9, 2004.

[179] Ibid.

[180] Ibid.; Human Rights Watch interviews with former fighters, Monrovia, August 9-13, 2004.

[181] See House Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Africa, Confronting War Crimes in Africa, 108th Cong., 2nd Sess., June 24, 2004, p. 13; “Nigeria sets date for Taylor asylum challenge,” Reuters, July 26, 2004; “Bryant says he wants Taylor to stay in Nigeria,” IRIN, August 16, 2004.

[182] See “Chairman of Transitional Government Asks Security Council to Lift Sanctions on Liberia,” United Nations Security Council Press Release, June 3, 2004, SC/8110.

[183] E-mail to Human Rights Watch from J. Aloysius Toe, Chairman, Steering Committee, Liberia Civil Society Anti-Impunity Campaign, Monrovia, May 21, 2004.

[184] “Nigerian High Court Agrees to Review Charles Taylor Asylum,” Justice Initiative, June 3, 2004.  

[185] The plaintiffs were unable to serve him directly due to security around his residence in Calabar.  “Nigeria sets date for Taylor asylum challenge,” Reuters, July 26, 2004.

[186] Interview with Special Court staff, Freetown, March 3, 2004.

[187] United Nations, Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone.  See alsoUnited Nations Security Council, Resolution 1315; United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the Establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, October 4, 2000, S/2000/915, para. 71.

[188] “Annan Authorizes Tribunal Despite Funding Shortfall,” U.N. Wire, January 4, 2002; ICTR, “General Information: Budget and Staff;” ICTY, “General Information: Regular Budget.”

[189] U.N. Secretary-General Request for Subvention, para. 4.

[190] Human Rights Watch interview with Special Court staff, Freetown, March 3, 2004.

[191] Human Rights Watch interview with Special Court staff, New York, July 22, 2004.

[192] Secretary-General Request for Subvention, para. 4; Human Rights Watch interview with Special Court staff, New York, July 22, 2004.

[193] U.N. Secretary-General Request for Subvention.

[194] We note that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions recommended that the General Assembly authorize a grant not exceeding $16.7 million and that the committee would then provide a detailed recommendation on future assistance.  United Nations General Assembly, Request for a subvention to the Special Court for Sierra Leone: Thirty First report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (2004), A/587/Add.30 (2004); United Nations General Assembly, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the report of the Fifth Committee (A/58/573/Add.1) (Special Court for Sierra Leone), April 26, 2004, A/RES/58/284, Art. 2.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>September 2004