For some reason, the US doesn't seem very disturbed by Charles Taylor being allowed to go into exile in Nigeria rather than appearing before the Special Court in Sierra Leone to face charges of "17 counts for crimes against humanity and serious violations of international law -- including systematic rape, murder and mutilations."
War crimes court urges trial for exiled Taylor: The court says he was the main backer, through a guns-for-diamonds trade, of rebels who became notorious for hacking off the limbs of their civilian victims.Despite Taylor's statements that he intends to return to Liberia someday, we are not taking the kind of role with respect to him that we did toward Slobodan Milosevic.
But Nigeria has no extradition treaty with the court and is not under a legal obligation to hand him over.
VOANews.com: White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said President Bush welcomes the departure of Liberian President Charles Taylor, whose resignation Mr. Bush demanded as a precondition for U.S. involvement in a West African peacekeeping force.And why not? Here's a look at some of the "highlights" of Taylor's career, courtesy of the Naples News and Scripps Howard:
Ms. Buchan said the Bush administration believes "all parties responsible for the atrocities in Sierra Leone must be held accountable," but she would not say whether Washington will now press Nigeria to turn Mr. Taylor over to the U.N. tribunal.
After a violent Liberian regime change in 1979, Taylor returned and wrangled a spot as a Cabinet minister in the new government of Samuel K. Doe. Four years later, Taylor vanished from Liberia, a step ahead of charges that he had embezzled nearly $1 million from the government. The international police agency Interpol tracked him to the Boston area, where he was caught and spent a year in jail fighting extradition home.Taylor has also been documented to have met with high-ranking al Qaeda operatives and to have sold them diamonds as part of a scheme to both launder money and move it more easily around the world.
Before he could be sent back to justice in Liberia, Taylor and several fellow inmates sawed the bars from a window in the Plymouth County jail and descended two stories on a rope of knotted bedsheets to freedom. His accomplices were quickly apprehended, but Taylor escaped.
Taylor next surfaced in Libya, where he took military training. Then he encamped in Sierra Leone and other African countries that border Liberia, putting together a band of fighters dedicated to ousting Doe, himself a despot of legendary brutality and corruption. Taylor's 1989 Christmas Eve coup attempt failed but set in motion a civil war that, over a decade, took the lives of at least 150,000 Liberians.
The human-rights group Africa Watch described Liberia during that era as in the horrible grip of "near genocide," starvation and deadly epidemics. Fighters on both sides allegedly engaged in cannibalism, as well as torture that included, among other unspeakable acts, hacking off the limbs of toddlers in front of their parents.
Taylor added his own brand of brutality, assembling what he called his Small Boy Units — youths as young as 9 years old who were armed, given illicit drugs and turned loose to massacre and mutilate whomever they wished.
Many of Taylor's fighters in what he called the National Patriotic Front of Liberia donned women's wigs, painted their fingernails and even wore wedding dresses as they marauded, often accompanied by the blasting of songs by the Temptations and Aretha Franklin. They sometimes anchored decapitated heads on the license plates of their vehicles.
A West African peacekeeping force, led by Nigeria, attempted to quell the violence in 1990 but failed. Doe was captured, tortured and executed. Taylor escalated his rebellion, employing such atrocities as hacking to death more than 600 civilian refugees and slaughtering five American nuns.
Blood spilled for seven years. Liberians begged then-President George Bush in 1990 to send in peacekeepers, but Washington refused. In 1991, Carter stepped in, taking Taylor's side against what he called a biased peacekeeping force. Carter failed at brokering a cease-fire, as did a host of others, including civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson.
In 1997, Taylor staged a national election, which some critics say he rigged. But many Liberians voted for him in desperation to end the carnage.
Since then, Taylor took to stirring up trouble in neighboring countries, according to this Bush administration, which considers him the most destabilizing force in the region today. The White House worries that such unrest can breed terrorism.
One of his few defenders in recent years has been televangelist [Pat] Robertson, who, after cutting a deal with Liberia for a gold-mining venture in 1999, said Taylor, who is the father of seven and thrice married, was getting a bum rap.
Liberia was a land of "freedom ... and the rule of law," Robertson said in a letter to the editor of The Washington Post last year, adding that his managers had seen no signs of human-rights violations in Liberia.
Among other allegations dogging Taylor is that he allegedly set up a very lucrative trade in diamonds with Sierra Leone rebels, giving them weapons in return. In June, Taylor was indicted by an international criminal court for instigating waves of rapes, amputations and other atrocities in Sierra Leone.
If Taylor indeed is deep in the diamond trade, he evidently hasn't used much of the proceeds to help his country. Now, once-relatively prosperous Liberia has virtually no running water, school system, electrical power, telephones or sewers.
When Taylor invaded in 1989, the country of 3.5 million had 400 doctors. Now, there are fewer than 25. Taylor's government has plundered Liberia's natural resources of timber, iron ore and rubber. Two rebel groups control a growing swath of the country. Bloodshed, mass hunger and despair abound.
So why did we inisist that he go into exile before sending in even a token number of troops? Why didn't we march in and take him to Sierra Leone to face justice?