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» 22.04.2010 - President Ellen in Liberia poll headache
» 22.12.2009 - First female wins Liberia's youth leadership award
» 18.12.2009 - Liberia exempted from arms embargo
» 17.12.2009 - Media rights group condemns arrest of media players
» 02.11.2009 - Sierra Leone judge takes over Taylor case
» 07.09.2009 - New UN trained special police graduate in Liberia
» 18.08.2009 - Liberian security and peace gains still fragile, Ban
» 13.07.2009 - Liberia dismiss accusations of plot against Cornakry

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Liberia | Sierra Leone
Society | Human rights

Sierra Leone war crimes prosecutor resigns

Prosecutor Desmond de Silva:
«I promised to bring Charles Taylor to trial.»

© afrol News
afrol News, 29 April
- The chief prosecutor of the UN-backed special war crimes court i Sierra Leone, Desmond de Silva, has notified that he will step down when his contract expires on 30 June. Mr de Silva holds that he now has fulfilled the main promises he made when accepting the post, by finally bringing Liberian ex-Dictator Charles Taylor to court.

The Sierra Leonean court announced the resignation of Mr de Silva in a statement, published yesterday evening. According to the statement, Mr de Silva already had notified UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan about his decision. The chief prosecutor, a Briton, has worked in the special court since 2002 and was appointed to his current position in July 2005.

"At a press conference in Freetown shortly after I took up the post of prosecutor, I pledged to Sierra Leoneans that I would 'strain every nerve and every sinew to bring Charles Taylor to trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone'," Mr de Silva said. "I leave the Court with that pledge fulfilled," his statement proudly added.

Mr de Silva in his letter to the UN Secretary-General further informed that, when ex-President Taylor comes to trial, whether in Freetown, The Hague or elsewhere, he would be "willing to be considered for reappointment" were that the wish of Mr Annan. By statute, only the UN Secretary-General can appoint a prosecutor of the Sierra Leonean war crimes court.

"When I joined the Special Court four years ago, I was no stranger to Sierra Leone," Mr de Silva said. "I was called to the bar in Freetown back in 1969 when I served as defence counsel in Sierra Leone's first treason trial. One of the defendants in that case, in which my colleagues and I finally prevailed, was Samuel Hinga Norman, who is now one of the defendants facing trial before the Special Court. Such is the wheel of fate!"

In his letter to Mr Annan, the outgoing chief prosecutor indicated that, after four years in Sierra Leone, he now wishes to spend time with his family in England and also to attend to matters at his chambers in London.

The trial against ex-Dictator Taylor is probably to be held in The Hague, Netherlands. Both the International Court of Crime (ICC) in The Hague and the Dutch government have agreed to a petition from the Sierra Leonean court to host the trial. But the Dutch government has asked for guarantees from a third country that Mr Taylor would be provided prison facilities outside the Netherlands if convicted. No country has yet said "yes" to this petition.

Mr de Silva in his letter to Mr Annan strongly indicated that he would be willing to take up again his position as chief prosecutor in a trial against Mr Taylor, probably to be held in The Hague. As the Special Court will be involved in trials in Freetown at the same time, it is very probable that it will need two prosecutors - one based in The Hague and one based in Freetown.

Mr de Silva's surprising resignation therefore mostly seems to be an application for the position of chief prosecutor of the Sierra Leonean court's department-to-be in The Hague. The ambitious legal practitioner seems to be aiming at following the Taylor trial to the end - in The Hague.

The former Liberian Dictator faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity due to his backing of rebels in Sierra Leone's extremely brutal 1991-2002 civil war. Mr Taylor has already pleaded not guilty to all charges and says he will not recognise the jurisdiction of the Sierra Leonean court.

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