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Liberia: Charles Taylor Uses Covid-19 in Jail Transfer Bid

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Former Liberian president Charles Taylor’s persistent quest to be relocated from the British prison in which he is serving his 50-year sentence to a third country has be dealt another blow.

Instead of previous applications, Taylor, 72, in his latest application requested to be transferred temporarily from the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic to a safe third country, but his application was dismissed.

Taylor was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2013 of war crimes and crimesagainst humanity committed in Sierra Leone. Under an agreement with the UK, he is serving his 50-yearsentence at HM Prison Frankland.

Taylor had argued that, due to the “massive outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK”, his continued detention in that country posed “a substantial risk to his right to life”. He argued further that the RSCSL had a duty tosupervise his sentence to ensure his safety, and has the authority to order his transfer to a safe thirdcountry.

But Justice Teresa Doherty, who heard the application as RSCSL Duty Judge, noted that Taylor had failed tocomply with Court directions that he specify which countries he considered safe, or to clarify whichcountries were his “‘first’ or ‘second’ countries for the purposes of his application”. She further noted thatthe World Health Organization has not declared any place in the world safe from COVID-19.

She found that Taylor’s claim that HM Frankland was overcrowded and that other claims regardingadverse conditions in the prison were at variance with facts adduced in the Registrar’s submission. Shealso ruled that international conventions and precedents from other tribunals which he cited were notapplicable to his request.

The Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone is responsible for the ongoing legal obligations of the Special Court for SierraLeone, which concluded its mandate in December 2013. These include supervision of prison sentences, witness protection andsupport, maintenance and preservation of the archives, and assistance to national prosecution authoritiesTaylor was convicted on 11 charges including terrorism, rape, murder and the use of child soldiers by rebel groups in neighboring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war, in which some 50,000 people died.

Taylor was found to have supplied weapons to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for diamonds.The rebels were notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians to terrorise the population. Taylor has always insisted he is innocent and that his only contact with the rebels was to urge them to stop fighting.

He was about 64 at the time he was sentenced in 2012. His sentence was upheld on appeal. … On 15 October 2013 he was transferred to British custody, and began serving his sentence at HM Prison Frankland in County Durham, England.

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