STATEMENT FROM BARACK OBAMA ON CHARLES TAYLOR
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Barack Obama issued the following statement in response to the recent developments surrounding the status of former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor:
"According to multiple news outlets, Charles Taylor has disappeared from his villa in Calabar, Nigeria. Despite the fact that the Government of Nigeria has had more than two-and-a-half years to plan for this contingency, Taylor appears to be on the loose - threatening a fragile peace in many parts of West Africa."
"Taylor and his forces were responsible for carrying out atrocities on Nigerians, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans alike. The inability of the Government of Nigeria to provide adequate security around the residence of Charles Taylor, one of the world's worst war criminals, is inexcusable. President Bush should cancel tomorrow's meeting with President Obasanjo, in order to send a clear message that the United States stands unequivocally for bringing Charles Taylor to justice."
Taylor has been accused of committing war crimes by international prosecutors in Sierra Leone. He was given political asylum by Obasanjo in August 2003 and, until his recent escape, has been living in the Nigerian city of Calabar.
On July 19, 2005, Senator Obama offered a bipartisan amendment, along with Senators Hagel, Leahy, and Gregg, to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to provide $13 million for the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Obama amendment, which was enacted into law on November 14, 2005, provides critical funding to keep the Court up and running for the near future and dramatically enhances efforts to bring Charles Taylor to justice. In a letter to Senator Obama, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court, Desmond de Silva, wrote, "The knowledge that we have secure funding for 2006 now allows me to concentrate my energies and efforts to bring Mr. Taylor to trial...."
Following adoption of the amendment, Obama teamed up with Republican Congressman Ed Royce on December 13, 2005 to write a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Secretary Rice calling on the State Department to urge President Johnson-Sirleaf to request the transfer of Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The letter said "Such a call by the Liberian President-Elect would send a powerful message that the use of violence to achieve political ends is no longer acceptable in West Africa, and would help usher in a new era for the rule of law in the region."