USCR Wants Taylor Tried
December 19, 2000

An American humanitarian committee, calling for the imposition of sanctions on Liberia, wants Liberian president Charles Taylor tried for alleged war crimes in efforts to halt his alleged destabilization plots within West Africa.

"The UN Security Council should also consider expanding the jurisdiction of the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone to include Liberians such as Charles Taylor whose support for the RUF might make them accomplices to alleged war crimes", the US Committee for Refugees, a non-profit humanitarian group, said Monday in a release. The USCR said sanctions should include banning of Liberian timber, gold and diamonds.

The allegations come days after Liberian political parties and religious groups called on President Taylor to expel mercenaries and foreign military observers from the country. There have been a series of reports on the presence of South African Neo-Nazis, South American death squads, Burkinabe mercenaries and others from the former Soviet Union operating in Liberia for diamonds, gold and timber.

The USCR noted that, "International pressure on President Taylor must become stronger and more purposeful. Policy makers in the United States and at the United Nations should consider imposing sanctions on Liberia's main raw materials--gold, diamonds, rubber, and timber. Export of these materials reportedly finances President Taylor and his personal policies; sanctions are therefore unlikely to have adverse effects on most of Liberia's impoverished population."

The humanitarian group recalled that, "Years ago, Taylor escaped prosecution in the United States for charges of embezzlement. Today, the United States should see that he is finally held accountable--this time for his continued role in the widening cycle of violence in West Africa that has left a million people uprooted from their homes."

The American Committee accused President Taylor of being "The principal support for the cycle of violence that has spread from Sierra Leone to Guinea" It added that, Taylor "reportedly continues to plunder the region's natural resources--particularly diamonds and timber-- in order to foment instability, settle old scores, and pay off personal debts".

The USCR recalled that, "The United States, United Kingdom, and other world powers have warned President Taylor to stop his "diamonds-for-guns" trade with Sierra Leone's RUF rebels. However, according to observers in the region--and as last week's well-coordinated attack on southeastern Guinea suggests--Taylor's relationship with the RUF has continued unabated. Liberia has some legitimate grievances against Guinea, but they do not justify further appeasement of Taylor.

It described recent ECOWAS' moves to deploy troops along Liberian-Sierra Leonean border as "naïve," adding that, "International aid agencies, unable to fulfill their humanitarian mandate, have called upon the security branch of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to deploy military observers along the Guinean border. This is a false hope. RUF rebels already humiliated a larger UN peacekeeping force this summer. Even a well-armed ECOWAS or UN interposition force cannot successfully restore security, as long as the RUF maintains control of the other side of the border.

The USCR noted that Sierra Leone's recent ceasefire has only "enabled the RUF and its allies to shift their focus and launch a series of coordinated military attacks into southeastern Guinea. In recent days, as the UN peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone naively applauded "positive signs toward the peace process" on one side of the border, UN aid agencies on the other side of the border were evacuating their staff."
It observed that, "In Sierra Leone, years of war, terror, atrocities, and a rebel invasion of the capital, were allowed to take place before the international community became deeply involved in trying to resolve the problems of that small, "strategically unimportant" country. Yet millions of dollars and several UN military humiliations later, the real problems--and real sources of instability--in Sierra Leone remain relatively unchanged. Little lasting progress towards peace has been made".

The USCR warned that, "If Guinea is to avoid a similar downward spiral, the international community must act decisively. The situation in Guinea could devolve rapidly into a complex political emergency with serious humanitarian repercussions. It could set back progress in the sub-region for another decade".

The Committee said, "The rapid escalation of deadly cross-border attacks into Guinea threatens to drag that previously stable country into the widening cycle of civil wars and humanitarian crises that have plagued the West Africa sub-region during the past decade".

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