Charles Taylor Arrives United Kingdom To Commence Jail Tenure

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charles-taylorEx-Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor has arrived in the UK to serve the remainder of his 50-year prison sentence for war crimes.

He had asked the UN-backed special court in The Hague to serve his jail term in Rwanda instead.

 

Britain made a deal to take Taylor long before he lost his appeal against a 50-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in The Hague last week.

He was on Tuesday transferred under tight security from The Hague to a British prison where the convicted war criminal is likely to spend the rest of his life.

“Charles Ghankay Taylor… was transferred today from the Netherlands and the custody of the Special Court to the United Kingdom, where he will serve the remainder of his 50-year sentence,” the SCSL’s Freetown office said in a statement after the transfer was completed.

 

A chartered plane flew Taylor, accompanied by guards, to Britain where he arrived at 1000 GMT and “was handed over to representatives of Her Majesty’s Prison Service,” the court said.

 

A justice ministry official in London declined to confirm that Taylor was in Britain or say in which prison he would serve his time.

 

“We do not comment on individual cases,” a justice ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

 

London said last week that Taylor would serve the rest of his sentence in a British jail, according to the confidential deal made in 2007 shortly after Taylor’s arrest.

 

His historic sentence on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity was the first handed down by an international court against a former head of state since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in 1946.

 

Taylor had asked to serve his sentence in a Rwandan prison rather than in Britain in order to be closer to his family, and Kigali had said on Tuesday that it was ready to consider the request.

 

The court said however that no other country had offered or accepted to enforce the remainder of Taylor?s sentence.

Taylor was handed over to UK prison service representatives after his plane landed at 11:00 BST (10:00 GMT).

He was sentenced in May 2012 for aiding rebels who committed atrocities in Sierra Leone during its civil war.

The former president, 65, was convicted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), but his trial was held in The Hague in case it sparked renewed unrest in West Africa.

The Netherlands only agreed to host the trial if he was imprisoned elsewhere.

In a statement, the SCSL said Taylor left the Netherlands on a chartered flight on Tuesday morning, “accompanied by Special Court detention and security officials”.

He would be given credit for the time he had served in detention since his arrest on 26 March 2006, the statement said.

Last month, Taylor’s appeal was rejected, with the court that ruling his guilt had been proved beyond doubt.

He was convicted on 11 charges including terrorism, rape, murder and the use of child soldiers by rebel groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 conflict, in which some 50,000 people died.

The former Liberian leader was found to have supplied weapons to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for so-called blood diamonds.

The rebels were notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians to terrorise the population.

Taylor has always insisted he is innocent and his only contact with the rebels was to urge them to stop fighting.

He is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II.

‘Attack fears’

Earlier this month, Taylor sent a letter sent to the court saying he wanted to serve his sentence in Rwanda as it would be easier – and less expensive – for his family to visit him in Africa.

He also said he feared being attacked in a British prison.

In his three-page letter, seen by the BBC, Taylor said: “My name is now associated with horrendous atrocities. Prison inmates, whether from the region or not, are likely to be inclined to inflict their own brand of justice by attacking me.”

But the court said on Tuesday that “no other country had offered or accepted to enforce the remainder of Mr Taylor’s sentence”.

UK forces intervened in Sierra Leone in 2000, sending 800 paratroopers to protect Freetown as rebel forces were closing in on the capital. They evacuated British citizens and helped secure the airport for beleaguered UN peacekeepers.

The British forces pushed back the rebels, allowing the UN peacekeeping force to operate effectively. British forces then stayed on for another two years to re-train the Sierra Leone army.

• 1989: Launches rebellion in Liberia

• 1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone

• 1997: Elected president after a 1995 peace deal

• 1999: Rebels take up arms against Taylor

• June 2003: Arrest warrant issued; two months later he steps down and goes into exile in Nigeria

• March 2006: Arrested after a failed escape bid and sent to Sierra Leone

• June 2007: His trial opens – hosted in The Hague for security reasons

• April 2012: Convicted of aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes – later sentenced to 50 years in jail

-BBC News