Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Charles Taylor verdict shows that future despots have nowhere left to hide

by Mark Malloch-Brown

Financial Times

April 26, 2012

As Kofi Annan’s number two at the UN, I recall a long few days painstakingly monitoring with lawyers the procedures for the handover of the exiled Charles Taylor by his Nigerian hosts-turned-captors to the Liberian authorities and thence in mid-air to the UN and so to the Hague and his trial. Everything had to be done by the book to avoid later appeal but we were writing the book as we went along. This had hardly been done before. Until then international justice when it came to leaders who had run amok had been with the exception of Nuremberg more mouse than lion when it came to action. Indeed when Mr Taylor went to Nigeria he thought he had a deal ensuring him lifelong sanctuary.

Now the outcome of this special court, the verdicts of the International Criminal Court and the Balkan trials of Slobodan Milošević and fellow military and political leaders, Cambodia’s internationally supported prosecution of Khmer Rouge leaders and others tell a very different story of gathering international judicial activism. Leaders usually cannot get away with mass crimes against citizens anymore. Even if their own judicial and institutional systems are too weak to hold them to account, there is now a higher international authority that will.