Human Rights First Statement on the Opening of the Trial of Charles Taylor

“Taylor’s trial is significant because it shows that even very powerful figures, including heads of state, can be held accountable for crimes against humanity. These kinds of proceedings, we believe, serve to deter others who would commit mass atrocities as a deliberate strategy to seize and maintain power.

“To complete the trial of Charles Taylor and the eight others currently being prosecuted, the Special Court for Sierra Leone needs approximately $60 million more. The Special Court currently has funding only through October 2007. While more than 40 countries have contributed since the Court’s inception in 2002, four of these donors — the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada – have supplied approximately 80% of the money thus far.

“In order for justice to be done in the case of Charles Taylor and the other defendants, the Special Court needs resources to complete its work. Existing donors need to keep giving generously, and others must step up. In particular, the United States should continue its strong support. But the Court needs support other than money as well. Countries should also assist with the enforcement of sentences and protection of witnesses. Only three countries have agreed to provide prison facilities to incarcerate those convicted by the Court, and only five countries have agreed to assist with witness relocation.

“Compensation and restitution are potentially critical aspects of justice and accountability, but the Court lacks the capacity to trace the assets of Taylor and other accused who plundered the resources of Liberia and Sierra Leone. The U.S. and other countries should step forward to track these assets in case they can be used in the future to compensate victims.”

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Published on June 4, 2007

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