The Hague: Liberian ex-warlord Charles Taylor was on Tuesday transferred under tight security from The Hague to a British prison where the convicted war criminal is likely to spend the rest of his life.
Britain made a deal to take Taylor long before he lost his appeal against a 50-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in The Hague last week.
“Charles Ghankay Taylor… was transferred today from the Netherlands and the custody of the Special Court to the United Kingdom, where he will serve the remainder of his 50-year sentence,” the SCSL’s Freetown office said in a statement after the transfer was completed.
A chartered plane flew Taylor, accompanied by guards, to Britain where he arrived at 1000 GMT and “was handed over to representatives of Her Majesty’s Prison Service,” the court said.
A justice ministry official in London declined to confirm that Taylor was in Britain or say in which prison he would serve his time.
“We do not comment on individual cases,” a justice ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
London said last week that Taylor would serve the rest of his sentence in a British jail, according to the confidential deal made in 2007 shortly after Taylor’s arrest.
His historic sentence on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity was the first handed down by an international court against a former head of state since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in 1946.
Taylor had asked to serve his sentence in a Rwandan prison rather than in Britain in order to be closer to his family, and Kigali had said on Tuesday that it was ready to consider the request.
The court said however that no other country had offered or accepted to enforce the remainder of Taylor’s sentence.
The former president, 65, is likely to die behind bars after the UN-backed SCSL last month upheld his sentence for arming rebels during Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war during the 1990s.
Several Sierra Leone prisoners convicted by the SCSL court are already incarcerated in a special Rwandan jail that meets international standards.
Taylor was arrested in 2006 and sentenced at The Hague last year for “some of the most heinous crimes in human history”.
As Liberia’s president from 1997 to 2003, Taylor supplied guns and ammunition to rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone in a conflict notorious for its mutilations, drugged child soldiers and sex slaves, judges said.
Taylor was found guilty of supporting the rebels during a civil war that claimed 120,000 lives between 1991 and 2002, in exchange for “blood diamonds” mined by slave labour.
However the man who started a violent rebellion in Liberia in 1989, and was among the first to force children to carry guns, has never been prosecuted for atrocities committed in his own country.
In 2003 he was forced to quit Liberia under international pressure which brought an end to a second brutal civil war in his home country.
Arrested in Nigeria, he was transferred to The Hague in mid-2006 where his case was moved for fear of stirring up divisions at home where he is still popular.
A number of headline-grabbing witnesses took the stand during Taylor’s trial including actress Mia Farrow and former supermodel Naomi Campbell, who told of a gift of “dirty” diamonds she received from him in 1997 after a charity ball hosted by then South African president Nelson Mandela.