CALLING ON GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA TO TRANSFER CHARLES GHANKAY TAYLOR TO SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE -- (House of Representatives - May 03, 2005)
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 127) calling on the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to transfer Charles Ghankay Taylor, former President of the Republic of Liberia, to the Special Court for Sierra Leone to be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I want to thank my good friend and colleague for authoring this resolution, which calls on the government of Nigeria to transfer the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and for bringing it before us today.
In August of 2003, as a vicious war engulfed the Liberian capital of Monrovia, the government of Nigeria made a bold offer. In the interest of peace, they would offer asylum to Liberia's pariah President, Charles Taylor. The decision to host an indicted war criminal that had terrorized his people and fomented conflict throughout West Africa could not have been an easy one. I shudder to think of the countless lives which surely would have been lost had Charles Taylor been allowed to remain in Liberia and continue his reign of terror. Thanks in no small part to Nigeria, the war in Liberia now has ended, a transitional government is preparing for historic elections, and Liberians, at long last, may have the opportunity to live in peace.
But Taylor's asylum deal did not come without conditions. Under the terms of the agreement, Taylor reportedly is prohibited from communicating with anyone engaged in political, illegal, or governmental activities in Liberia. By all accounts, he repeatedly and unabashedly has violated that agreement.
Further, the asylum did not grant Taylor amnesty for his past crimes. This warlord-turned-President-turned-war criminal has worked long and hard to earn the reputation of "the cancer of West Africa." He is alleged to be cooperating with international terrorist organizations. He has engaged in the illicit trade in blood diamonds in violation of U.S. sanctions. He is linked to the proliferation of small arms throughout the region. He has fomented conflict not only in Liberia, but also in neighboring Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cote d'Ivoire. In sum, Charles Taylor has destabilized the entire sub-region of West Africa, leaving thousands dead and millions displaced in his wake.
But it was Taylor's active support for the Revolutionary United Front, or the RUF, of Sierra Leone, a rebel group notorious, as my colleague pointed out just a moment ago, for hacking off the limbs of innocent civilians, including women and children, which earned him an indictment by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. That indictment, which included 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, reads like a grotesque horror novel.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone, a court which this Congress actively supports, is expected to conclude its work this year. That cannot be done, however, if Taylor is not transferred from Freetown immediately. Furthermore, there can be no peace in Liberia or in West Africa so long as Taylor is allowed to maintain influence and act as a menace to his neighbors. The clock is ticking, Madam Speaker, while the legitimacy of the Special Court and the stability of West Africa hang in the balance. The time to transfer Charles Taylor to the Special Court for prosecution is now.
Charles Taylor, Madam Speaker, has repeatedly violated the terms of his asylum in Nigeria, as the government of Nigeria itself has acknowledged. Consequently, the government of Nigeria would be justified in ending that asylum and turning Taylor over to the Special Court, as we now are urging him to do.
This bipartisan resolution, which has been given due consideration by the Committee on International Relations, deserves every Member's support and, hopefully, we will pass it unanimously on the floor today.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
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