NPWJ calls for Charles Taylor indictment over Sierra Leone atrocities
A Press Release Issued by No Peace Without Justice in Freetown on April 11, 2003
The No Peace Without Justice "Conflict Mapping" program is part of the NPWJ Sierra Leone project and aims to reconstruct the chain of events during the conflict. By overlaying this information with order of battle and command structures of the various forces as they evolved over time and space, NPWJ aims to analyse the decision-making processes and ascertain the role of those who bear the greatest responsibility for policies of systematic and massive violations of the laws of war in the ten-year conflict.
Preliminary findings show that, despite the Special Court’s limited jurisdiction for crimes committed within the territory of Sierra Leone, armed groups responsible for some of the most serious and systematic violations of the laws of war were under the effective control of Liberian President Charles Taylor. His position as Head of State should not prevent the Special Court for Sierra Leone from investigating those links and prosecuting him.
The involvement of Charles Taylor in the origins of the conflict in Sierra Leone, his involvement in the conflict throughout the years and his continuing role in the instability in the sub-region all demonstrate that Charles Taylor believes he has nothing to fear from international criminal justice.
No Peace Without Justice urges the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone to investigate and bring charges against Taylor for his actions in relation to the conflict in Sierra Leone, so that Sierra Leone and the world might learn the truth about how deeply he was involved in the conflict, and so that he may be prevented from undertaking similar actions in Sierra Leone or in other countries in the sub-region.
Until such time as Charles Taylor believes that there is a credible threat to his continuing actions, it is highly unlikely that peace in the sub-region will be attainable, which has serious consequences for the recovery of Sierra Leone and the stability of other West African countries such as Cote d’Ivoire. These facts alone make any calls to offer Charles Taylor immunity from prosecution not only laughable but dangerous, as they undermine the deterrent effect of international judicial institutions.
No Peace Without Justice therefore urges the Prosecutor of the Special Court not to heed any suggestions that Charles Taylor be offered immunity for any charges he may face before the Special Court. NPWJ also echoes the calls of the Management Committee of the Special Court to all countries, particularly those in the sub-region, not to permit their territory to become a refuge from justice for fugitives from the Special Court, no matter their position in their State of origin.
"In the West, most people think Africa only needs water and food," says Alison Smith, Country Director of No Peace Without Justice in Sierra Leone, "These are real needs, but what is equally necessary is support for the rule of law and democracy: too often the international community undermines these principles in the name of some quick settlement that will remove a conflict from the world's television news networks, but will unfailingly make matters worse for years in the countries affected. In Sierra Leone, throughout the conflict and even afterwards, many actors have promoted amnesties or other forms of impunity as a ‘price to pay’ for peace and stability. These unrealistic policies have failed again and again. Only the application of democratic principles and the rule of law can bring any stability to West Africa."
No Peace Without Justice and Sierra Leone
No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) is an international non-profit organisation working for the establishment of an effective international criminal justice system and in support of accountability mechanisms for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, with a view to strengthening democracy and the rule of law worldwide.
Much of its work is conducted in the field, gathering evidence, providing technical support, seconding experts and conducting extensive outreach campaigns. Extensive fieldwork has been conducted in Kosovo, in East Timor and in Sierra Leone.
NPWJ’s involvement in Sierra Leone began with the secondment of NPWJ experts in international criminal law to the Government of Sierra Leone in June 1998, on the occasion of the Rome Diplomatic Conference that adopted the Statute of the International Criminal Court. This cooperation continues today on issues of accountability, rule of law and human rights.
Since 2000, while many within the international community argued for the preservation of a general amnesty and other guarantees of immunity in the name of "stability", NPWJ-seconded experts were already working in Freetown and New York, within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice, to assist the Government of Sierra Leone in its negotiations to establish the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Since 2001, NPWJ is also engaged in a wide-ranging field-based Outreach and public information campaign on the Special Court, in cooperation with Sierra Leonean grassroots organisations and civil society groups. The Outreach Program has gathered momentum and expanded and it is now being undertaken in cooperation with the Special Court itself, which established its own Outreach Section in the last few months.
n 2002, after the Special Court came into existence, NPWJ's Sierra Leone project expanded to include a "Conflict Mapping" program and a "Capacity Building" program aimed specifically at the Sierra Leonean Legal Profession, working primarily in partnership with the Sierra Leone Bar Association.
NPWJ has consistently opposed short-term, unrealistic policies of amnesty or other derogations from democratic principles and the rule of law in the name of stability or an illusory peace.
The Conflict Mapping program is part of the NPWJ Sierra Leone project and aims to reconstruct the chain of events during the ten-year war. By overlaying this information with order of battle and command structures of the various forces as they evolved over time and space, NPWJ aims to analyse the decision-making processes and ascertain the role of those who bear the greatest responsibility for policies of systematic and massive violations of the laws of war in the ten-year conflict.
In Sierra Leone, this work is conducted by national human rights workers or "Conflict Mapping Recorders", trained and supervised by NPWJ personnel, in communities and villages throughout the country. The Conflict Mapping program is primarily based on the scrupulous selection and debriefing of selected individuals ("Key Persons") whose profession, role in their community or in the forces involved in the conflict, placed them in a position to follow events as they unfolded.
As a result of the Conflict Mapping program, conducted in coordination with the NPWJ Outreach program, community "ownership" of the accountability mechanisms is greatly enhanced. Not only does the Outreach Program train villages and towns on the Special Court (through "Training the Trainers" sessions and community events) but those communities also have a much greater sense of participation in the accountability efforts by providing their own views on the conflict and by being consulted on the events.
The comprehensive report resulting from this program will include information gathered and processed by experienced analysts with the assistance of advanced database and mapping software, to provide a chronological analysis of the conflict in order to ascertain the individual role of those who bear the greatest responsibility for policies of systematic violations of the laws of war.
For further information: Alison Smith: Alison@Sensible.it
NPWJ Sierra Leone Office
135 Jomo Kenyatta Road; Freetown; Sierra Leone
Tel +232 (0)22 240-195