Global Policy Forum

Sweden OKs Law to Take Liberia's Taylor


By Karl Ritter

Associated Press
June 1, 2006

Swedish lawmakers have approved a law that makes it possible for the Scandinavian country to imprison former Liberian President Charles Taylor if he is convicted of war crimes by a U.N.-backed tribunal, government officials said Thursday.

The decision by the Swedish Parliament could remove a major obstacle that has stalled the former African warlord's trial in Sierra Leone. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nina Ersman said Sweden had not yet officially decided whether it would accept a request to take in Taylor. Such a step would need final approval from the government.

The U.N.-backed court has asked the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court to host the trial, fearing Taylor's trial in Africa might revive regional instability. The Netherlands agreed to the request on condition that a third country agrees to jail Taylor if he is convicted. Sweden had previously rejected the request to take Taylor, saying Parliament had not approved a special agreement with the Sierra Leone court that would make it possible for him to serve a possible sentence in the Scandinavian country. Besides Sweden, Denmark and Austria had previously rejected requests to accept him.

The legal obstacle in Sweden was removed Wednesday when Parliament approved such an agreement with the court that takes effect July 1. The measure was approved without a vote because nobody opposed it, Parliament spokeswoman Christina Green said. The decision initially went unnoticed.

Taylor faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his alleged backing of Sierra Leonean rebels who terrorized victims by chopping off their arms, legs, ears and lips. He was transferred into the custody of the Sierra Leone court in late March from exile in Nigeria. While the charges refer only to Sierra Leone, Taylor is accused of fomenting violence in his homeland and elsewhere in West Africa has well.

In London on Wednesday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told reporters that holding the trial in west Africa would be risky for her fledgling government. Taylor still has supporters in Liberia, some of whom won seats in parliament in elections held at the same time as the presidential vote she won last year.

Sweden has agreements on jailing war criminals with other U.N. courts. Former Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic, the most senior political figure to be convicted by the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, is serving an 11-year sentence in a high-security prison west of Stockholm. Miroslav Deronjic, the top wartime authority in the eastern Bosnian city of Bratunac during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, was transferred from The Hague to Sweden last year, and is serving a 10-year sentence for ordering the destruction of a Muslim village.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on Charles Taylor
More Information on the Special Court for Sierra Leone


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