Why Liberian President Charles Taylor
Should Face the
UN backed War Crimes Trials in
Throughout the last two centuries
or more, the people living on the African continent have inured much suffering
and many indignities. Much of this was done at the hands of their own ruthless
leaders. These leaders have committed a multitude of atrocities including rape,
mutilation, murder and genocide. Many of the leaders that carried out these
atrocities have gone unpunished. Today, at the beginning of the 21st
century, the world has an opportunity to change this trend. The people of
During the Cold War, both
Superpowers propped up puppet leaders in
Even after the end of the Cold War,
this type of activity continued under the direction of Ronald Reagan. A hearing
was held on
Booker, like most of the panelist
who testified before the committee, urged the committee to advise President
Bush and other government leaders to support the indictment of
Mrs. Janet Fleishman, the African director of Human Rights Watch, who has lived and worked in Liberia for over 20 years, also testified before the committee. She said that the visit to Africa by President Bush marks an important moment. She went on to stress that it is important for President Bush and the United States government to support the efforts of the international War Crimes Trial in Sierra Leone and to bring Taylor to justice. She added that this would be an important step towards ending the cycle of human rights violations inflicted upon the people of this region by the various fighting factions. The atrocities she alludes to include rapes, murders of women and children, and abductions and recruitment of child soldiers. She urged Bush and other U.S. government officials to encourage the leaders of the African nations in the region not to offer amnesty or asylum to Taylor or other combatants who have committed war crimes. She also agreed with Booker’s comments and concluded that it was important for the international community to bring Taylor to justice. She said she was grateful to see that President Bush is considering sending greater humanitarian aid and Peacekeepers to Liberia. She however voiced her concern that it would be wrong for the international community to allow Taylor to go unpunished for his crimes. She encouraged the Bush administration to support the UN approved International War Crimes Tribunal in Sierra Leone.
Mrs. Jeanette Carter also testified before the hearing. She has spent nearly 40 years living and working in Liberia. She began her work there as a Peace Corps volunteer and is currently is a board member of the Friends of Liberia and the director of Catholic Relief Services in Liberia. Carter also echoed the positions of Mr. Booker and Mrs. Fleishman and hastened to pose this question. “Whose side should we be on?” To that she answered, “The side of the people.”
Richard Goldstone is a veteran international War Crimes investigator. He has had experience in the former Yugoslavia as well as Rwanda. In his book, For Humanity, he stresses the need for war criminals to be brought to justice. Investigator Goldstone pointed out that he was optimistic when, during the Clinton administration, President Clinton nominated David Scheffer to be special ambassador on war crimes. Goldstone said, "this demonstrated further support for the United Nations tribunals and also for the international criminal court.”
It is apparent to me that under the second Bush administration, the United States has once again abandoned its moral responsibility to support these international tribunals and the United Nations. For too long the conservative politicians and the right wing media have snubbed their nose at the international community and the United Nations. This has been most recently apparent in the Bush administration’s defiant attitude towards the UN and the international community with regards to Iraq. President Bush has an opportunity to change this benign attitude. His recent trip to the African continent has focused greater attention by the media about this crisis in the region. This increased attention has raised the concerns of the complacent American public. They are beginning to ask the question of what the United States government’s response should be. They are also becoming aware of the hypocrisy of the Bush administration related to the UN and the international rule of law. It is my hope that as a result of this attention the American people will join the voices of those suffering in West Africa and cry out for international justice. If this is done, perhaps the Bush administration will become more aware of the importance of international cooperation in the quest for global justice. By supporting, the UN authorized War Crimes Tribunal against Taylor; the U.S. can demonstrate to the world that it once again embraces the democratic principles of international law and global justice.
The 21st century began with many marvels of new communication technologies like the Internet and satellite communication. These technologies remind us in a new way that the world is but one community, a global community. If there is to be sustained peace throughout the world, then all people and nations must embrace the concept of international justice. The successful execution of these international War Crimes trials against Taylor and his associates will send a clear message to tyrants around the world. The Global community will no longer allow crimes against humanity to go unpunished and the leaders of nations will never again be held above the law. This will result in a more peaceful and safer world for all humanity.