The former prosecutor who drew up the war-crimes indictment against Charles Taylor said on Tuesday that the former Liberian president’s trial was likely to shed light on the activities of Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi and a network of war profiteers.
David Crane, speaking in an interview the day Taylor was flown from Sierra Leone to The Netherlands for trial, said he had considered indicting Gadaffi, who he alleged was intimately involved in plotting to ”take down” Sierra Leone.
”Gadaffi wanted to geopolitically control West Africa through surrogates such as Charles Taylor,” he said. Though Gadaffi would not be on trial, the case would ”name and shame him”, Crane said.
Gadaffi’s support for a range of West African rebels was well known. But in recent years, Gadaffi has tried to portray himself as a statesman with no interest in sowing unrest. The international community has been moving to embrace a man held responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The United States government said last month it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Libya and removing it from a list of terrorism sponsors, saying Gadaffi’s government had renounced terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Taylor faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his alleged backing of Sierra Leonean rebels, who terrorised victims by chopping off their arms, legs, ears and lips during the country’s 1991 to 2002 civil war. Although the charges refer only to Sierra Leone, Taylor is also accused of fomenting violence in his homeland and elsewhere in West Africa.
Crane, now a law professor at Syracuse University in the US and a guest lecturer at Utrecht University, prosecuted the Sierra Leone war crimes cases for four years until last July.
Taylor’s trial was being held at The Hague to avoid a feared backlash among his supporters, who still command influence in West Africa. Crane originally objected to moving the court from West Africa, where victims could attend the trial. But he acknowledged on Tuesday that Taylor’s influence is still pervasive in the region and that the fears of igniting more instability were real.
”He’s been terrorising that part of the world for at least a decade. He has incredible power, influence — almost mythical powers. People are afraid of him,” Crane said.
Crane will not be directly involved in the trial, which will likely be prosecuted by his former deputy, Desmond de Silva. De Silva was due to take leave from the court at the end of June, but return in January for the trial, Crane said.
Crane was confident of a conviction.
”I wouldn’t have signed the indictment unless I was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. ”You can’t make an error in this business. You can’t have Charles Taylor acquitted.”
He said he expected victims to testify about crimes that occurred, experts to explain the context of the conflict and ”individuals who were in the inner circle” who could testify that they were present when criminal action was being planned. — Sapa-AP