Taylor’s conviction “isn’t the end”—says US envoy Rapp
By Frank Sainworla,Jr/WADR News
The head of the US State Department’s office of global criminal justice, Ambassador Stephen Rapp has said the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor of war crimes and crimes against humanity “isn’t the end” of efforts to pursue perpetrators of atrocities.
Within 72 hours after Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone’s former RUF rebels in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, the US State Department Ambassador in charge of war crimes issues arrived in the sub-region early this week.
Rapp was one time Prosecutor of the UN backed Sierra Leone Special Court in The Hague, which has received a substantial portion of its funding from the US government.
In an interview with West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) during his visit to Senegal’s capital, Dakar, the US State Department official said Taylor’s guilty verdict “sends an important message and one that we want to continue to send and one that I think appropriately can be sent to the national level as well as the international level.”
Some raised eyebrows after Rapp swiftly flew from The Hague on Sunday to Senegal, which is home country of the Special Court’s alternate Judge Malick Sow, who had earlier given a dissenting opinion after the verdict was announced on April 26.
When quizzed by this writer about what informed the timing of his visit to Senegal at the time, the US State Department official denied it was connected to Judge Sow’s action.
Expressing his rejection of the conviction, Sow had said, “I’m afraid the whole system is under grave danger of just losing all credibility, and I’m afraid this whole thing is headed for failure.”
The trial chamber however squashed the prosecution evidence that the former Liberian leader presided over a joint criminal enterprise and that he personally commanded and controlled the RUF rebel movement in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
According to Rapp, he was in Dakar for “meetings on other subjects.” But he said he was using the visit as an opportunity to meet with the press and “comment on this verdict against Charles Taylor, because it was one in which he was personally involved.
Asked what he made of the Senegalese Judge’s dissenting opinion, the American prosecutor said although he respected his right to his views, Justice Sow made the move because he was not pleased serving as a “spare Judge” in the Taylor case for some four years without having the right to vote in the trial chamber.
“I think his statement reflected some of that frustration. But I hope that he can soon be assigned to a court where he can vote and make decisions because I think he’s an excellent jurist,” the US State Department Ambassador for war crimes issues said.
WADR’s Frank Sainworla interviews Stephen Rapp.
Click audio below to listenTweet