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May 4, 2005

House Passes Resolution Seeking To Bring War Criminal Charles Taylor to Justice

Royce's resolution calls on Nigeria to turn Taylor over to Special Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. - - Today, the House passed a resolution [H.Con.Res 127] authored by U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-40). The bipartisan resolution calls on Nigeria to turn over the former Liberian President Charles Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Royce issued the following statement:

"Charles Taylor has been indicted on 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court for the role he played during Sierra Leone's brutal war. This hybrid Court, which has been supported by this body, has been given jurisdiction over 'those who bear the greatest responsibility' for the atrocities and human rights violations in this now past war. Charles Taylor is at the top of this list.

"During the late 1990s, then-President Taylor of Liberia supported the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - which was designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization - in neighboring Sierra Leone in West Africa. The RUF were notorious for hacking the limbs off of their political opponents, even young children. When I chaired the Africa Subcommittee, we hosted some of these victims on Capitol Hill. Dating back to 1998, we held numerous hearings examining the chaos in West Africa caused by Taylor.

"The RUF employed child soldiers. Investigative reporter Doug Farah described what life was like for a child soldier in Blood from Stones: 'One thing thechildren do remember vividly is the preparation for what they called "mayhem days," sprees of killing and raping that lasted until the participants collapsed from exhaustion. They said they were given colored pills, most likely amphetamines, and razor blade slits near their temples, where cocaine was put directly into their bloodstreams. The ensuing days would be a blur; the children often remembered only the feeling of being invincible, before the drugs wore off.' This was Charles Taylor's view of West Africa.

Yet today, Charles Taylor safely resides in exile in Nigeria. In August 2003, some believed that removing Taylor from Liberia and giving him exile would prevent Liberia and West Africa from destabilizing. Instead of facing justice at the Special Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Taylor was given a seaside villa in Calabar, Nigeria. In exchange, Taylor would refrain from engaging in political activity.

Nearly two years after the exile deal, Taylor is still very much involved in Liberian politics as that nation prepares for elections in the fall. According to United Nations reports, his 'former military commanders and business associates, as well as members of his political party maintain regular contact with him and are planning to undermine the peace process' in Liberia. Incidentally, the United States and Congress have supported this peace process with hundreds of millions of dollars.

"As the resolution points out, David Crane, Chief Prosecutor at the Court, has stated: 'Unless and until Charles Taylor is brought to justice, there will be no peace' in Liberia. The UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Liberia, Jacques Klein has said, 'Charles Taylor is a psychopath and a killer...he's still very much involved [in and is..] intrusive in Liberian politics.'

"Charles Taylor remains a serious and continuing threat to West African peace and security, which is counter to U.S. interests as well.

"I am hopeful that Nigerian President Obasanjo will do the right thing, and hand Taylor over to the Special Court. He is in Washington this week. By passing this resolution, there will be no question where the U.S. House of Representatives stands.

"While Taylor is working to destabilize Liberia, Nigerian troops are there working to ensure a transition to peace. Nigerians I have spoken with want Taylor out. They know that Taylor is interfering in what should be a growing U.S.-Nigeria relationship. Among others, the Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Nigerian Bar Association have criticized the exile deal. Several Nigerian legislators have called on Nigeria to surrender Taylor to Interpol. We should have, and need, a growing U.S.-Nigerian relationship and the presence of Charles Taylor is threatening that.

"I am convinced that there will be no chance for peace and stability in West Africa until Charles Taylor is removed. We underestimate Taylor at our peril. He escaped from a Massachusetts prison in the 1985.

"I have never believed that he is out of play in Nigeria. It is well known that he is in cell phone contact with his cronies and has broken the terms of his 'contract' with Nigeria.

"Taylor has said that he will return to Liberia; I believe that he will try. I still remember his words, and Liberians certainly remember his words, as he got on that plane: 'God willing, I'll be back.'

"I urge the government of Nigeria to transfer Charles Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone so that he can be tried for war crimes and that justice can be served. It is time for Charles Taylor to face up to his crimes. This resolution deserves the strong support of the House."

Royce is the Vice-Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, and has been focused on bringing Taylor to justice since 1997. The resolution has 41 cosponsors including original cosponsors Rep. Tom Lantos, the senior Democrat on Committee on International Relations, Rep. Frank Wolf, Rep. Vic Snyder, and Rep. Sue Kelly.

NEWS FROM:
U.S. Rep. Ed Royce
California's 40th District Representative * www.royce.house.gov
Contact: Julianne Smith, 202-225-4111