Liberia may be free from its infamous president, Charles Taylor, but this indicted war criminal was not transported to where he belongs: behind bars. Instead, Mr. Taylor received a red carpet welcome and a hilltop mansion in Nigeria.
Ousting Taylor from Liberia is not enough. He must be held accountable for his crimes and stand trial before a United Nations-backed court in Sierra Leone, which has issued a warrant for his arrest. Allowing Taylor to escape responsibility defies international law, undermines Sierra Leone's Special Court, and sets a troubling precedent. It also ensures that Taylor's parting promise - "I'll be back" - will continue to cast an ominous shadow over any potential peace in the region.
Sierra Leone bears the scars of the nation's brutal, decade-long civil war at the hands of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), armed and trained by Taylor. In June, the indictment of Charles Taylor by the Special Court - a hybrid international tribunal created by the UN and the Sierra Leonean government - provided a ray of hope that true accountability and justice might finally prevail.
Taylor is charged with "bearing the greatest responsibility" for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and the use of child soldiers during Sierra Leone's war. He traded arms for diamonds, reaping profits while strengthening the RUF.
The war in Sierra Leone is infamous for its atrocities, made evident at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. A few weeks ago, I heard a woman recount a tragically typical tale: RUF rebels came to her home and mutilated and murdered her husband, father, and young infant. They herded her extended family into the house and set it on fire. They all died in the flames. She was made a sex slave and repeatedly raped over many years. Now she has AIDS, three young children, and no way to care for them. There are scores of similar stories.