Nigeria bill has Taylor implications

Thursday, September 1, 2005

The Nigerian legislature is considering a Bill that would permit the Senate to extradite persons granted asylum by Nigeria to other nations and organizations, such as the United Nations and the African Union, to face trial for war crimes. Under the law, the Senate would have the power to accept or decline applications for asylum as well as remit persons already with asylum to requesting organizations or countries.

If the Bill passes, it would provide the mechanism needed by Nigeria to lawfully extradite indicted war criminal Charles Taylor to stand trial at the Special Court in Sierra Leone. To date, Nigeria has resisted repeated claims by Sierra Leone, the United States, and the United Nations to extradite Mr. Taylor saying that they will only do so if called upon by a freely elected Liberian government. Liberia has its first national elections since Taylor's regime scheduled for October.

The Bill has significant implications in Liberia, where Taylor was President until ousted by the international community in August 2003, under an asylum deal with Nigeria. The United Nations has maintained a peacekeeping mission in the country ever since. In October, Liberia faces its first national elections since Taylor, and his influence, although against the terms of his asylum, is seen as potentially destabilizing.

The front runners in Liberia's presidential race recently spoke on the Taylor issue at a series of presidential debates held on local radio. Although most candidates agree that the rule of law must be followed none would commit to handing Taylor over to the Special Court if elected.