Friday, September 28, 2007

Taylor bill thrown out

Monrovia, Liberia - Liberian lawmakers voted unanimously to reject a bill that would have frozen assets and confiscated property belonging to former President Charles Taylor and his associates, a legislator said.

The decision throws up a roadblock to United Nations sanctions that ordered the assets of Taylor as well as those of his family members and former associates to be frozen. The legislation was needed to enact the sanctions, which were called for in a 2004 Security Council resolution.

Taylor, the first African leader to face an international tribunal, is on trial in The Hague, Netherlands, charged with crimes against humanity. He is accused of arming and controlling rebels who raped, mutilated and enslaved civilians during the 10-year civil war in Liberia's neighbor Sierra Leone, which ended in 2002.

"We killed the bill because we thought it was not in the interest of the country," Saah Gborlie, chairperson of the House of Representatives' committee on national security told The Associated Press on Sunday. The vote took place on Thursday.

The bill had been submitted to the House by the office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in July. If the bill had passed, the assets could have been frozen and confiscated regardless of whether Taylor, his family and his colleagues were found guilty.

Denying 'rights to due process'

Lawmakers said passing such a law would have denied Taylor and the others their rights to due process. It would have also violated the spirit of Liberia's newly won peace, they said.

"We can't pass a law that will not work in the interest of the country," Gborlie said.

"The letter and spirit of that proposed act violate not only the constitution, (but) our status and all other international laws of good practice," said Representative Kertekumehn Murray.

Presidential spokesperson Cyrus Badio told The Associated Press that the proposed bill "was part of the government's effort to guide against the misuse of state resources."

A Libyan-trained guerrilla fighter, Taylor was elected Liberia's president in 1997 after years in the bush leading a rebel movement. He was toppled from power and forced into exile in Nigeria in 2003.

The indictment by the international tribunal accuses Taylor of criminal responsibility for the destruction of Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone and for the murder, rape, maiming and mutilation of more than a half million Sierra Leoneans.

Taylor bill thrown out : Africa: News: News24