Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, June 13, 2003

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For IMMEDIATE Release

Hyde, Lantos Urge Powell to Release Funds
for Sierra Leone Court Facing Security Threats



(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan group of House members led by U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-IL), are urging the Bush Administration today to release additional funds earmarked for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is facing increasing security threats in the wake of its indictment of Liberian President Charles Taylor.

In their letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Hyde and U.S. Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the committee, Edward R. Royce (R-CA), chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, and Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), the committee’s vice chair, also ask for assurances that the Department of State “does not equate a ‘soft landing’ for the people of Liberia with a ‘soft landing’ for Charles Taylor.”

Taylor’s indictment by the Court was unsealed last week during his visit to Ghana to participate in a regional peace conference organized to end years of bloodshed in Liberia.

“Charles Taylor has actively supported the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone, a rebel group notorious for hacking off the limbs of innocent civilians, including women and children. He is alleged to be cooperating with international terrorist organizations. He is linked to the proliferation of small arms throughout west Africa and the illicit trade in diamonds in violation of UN sanctions. He has terrorized the population of Liberia and suppressed the media and political opposition. Taylor has fomented conflict not only in his own country, but also in neighboring Sierra Leone, Guinea, and most recently, Cote d’Ivoire. He has destabilized the entire sub-region of west Africa, leaving thousands dead and millions displaced in his wake,” the Members write in the letter to Powell.

“There can be no peace in Liberia, or in west Africa, as long as Charles Taylor is allowed to maintain influence and act as a menace to his neighbors. To regard Mr. Taylor as an honest broker who is capable of contributing to a peace process for Liberia, or to acquiesce to conditions for his voluntary retreat into exile, would be a mistake. Mr. Taylor has proven time and time again that he will say or do whatever is necessary to seize and maintain power. There is no reason to believe that his willingness and ability to foment conflict and destabilize his neighbors will be any less virulent if he is sent to Tripoli, Lome, Abuja, Paris, or elsewhere. If the United States truly seeks to support the peace process in Liberia and to foster stability in west Africa, there can be no deals. Exile for Mr. Taylor is not a sound option,” the letter states.

In addition to endorsing the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone which they suggest “is integral to facilitating reconciliation and restoring peace in the region,” the Members suggest that its work is in danger of physical attack if additional funds - already appropriated by Congress - to enhance the court’s security are not released by the Department.
The Members urge the Administration to obligate and release $10 million in FY 2003 Economic Support Funds, bringing the total U.S. contribution to the Special Court to $20 million, as provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2003.
“Threats (to the Court) posed by non-state actors have multiplied exponentially following the indictment of Taylor. Now more than ever, the Special Court needs the full backing of the U.S. Government. Public statements of support for the work of the Court should be issued, and additional funds to enhance the security posture of the Court should be provided. Too many lives have been lost, too many peacekeepers have been deployed, and too much has been invested by the United States, both politically and financially, to allow this Court to fail and instability reign,” the Members state.
 

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June 13, 2003

The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

We are writing to urge you to help foster peace and security in west Africa by supporting the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and resisting efforts to negotiate with President Charles Taylor of Liberia, indicted by the Special Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Further, we urge the Administration to obligate and release to the Special Court, without delay, $10 million in Fiscal Year 2003 Economic Support Funds, bringing the total U.S. contribution to the Special Court to $20 million, as called for in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2003.

As you know, following a decade of conflict characterized by mass mutilation, murder, rape, sexual slavery and forced conscription of child soldiers, the international community empowered the Special Court to prosecute those "who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law . . . including those leaders who, in committing such crimes, have threatened the establishment of and implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone." The Special Court, headed by Chief Prosecutor David Crane, has since worked tirelessly and courageously toward this end. Within just nine months, ten individuals have been indicted, including rebel leaders and commanders, a senior member of the government of Sierra Leone and, most recently, President Charles Taylor of Liberia.

Charles Taylor has actively supported the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone, a rebel group notorious for hacking off the limbs of innocent civilians, including women and children. He is alleged to be cooperating with international terrorist organizations. He is linked to the proliferation of small arms throughout west Africa and the illicit trade in diamonds in violation of UN sanctions. He has terrorized the population of Liberia and suppressed the media and political opposition. Taylor has fomented conflict not only in his own country, but also in neighboring Sierra Leone, Guinea and, most recently, Cote d’Ivoire. He has destabilized the entire sub-region of west Africa, leaving thousands dead and millions displaced in his wake. To this end, we seek assurances that the U.S. Department of State does not equate a "soft landing" for the people of Liberia with a "soft landing" for Charles Taylor. There can be no peace in Liberia, or in west Africa, as long as Charles Taylor is allowed to maintain influence and act as a menace to his neighbors. To regard Mr. Taylor as an honest broker who is capable of contributing to a peace process for Liberia, or to acquiesce to conditions for his voluntary retreat into exile, would be a mistake. Mr. Taylor has proven time and time again that he will say or do whatever is necessary to seize and maintain power. There is no reason to believe that his willingness and ability to foment conflict and destabilize his neighbors will be any less virulent if he is sent to Tripoli, Lome, Abuja, Paris, or elsewhere.

If the United States truly seeks to support the peace process in Liberia and to foster stability in west Africa, there can be no deals. Exile for Mr. Taylor is not a sound option.

We believe that the Special Court for Sierra Leone is integral to facilitating reconciliation and restoring peace in the region. Given the profile of the characters involved, the nature of the crimes committed, and the volatile security situation in the region, the Special Court is at risk of attack. Threats posed by non-state actors have multiplied exponentially following the indictment of Taylor. Now more than ever, the Special Court needs the full backing of the U.S. Government. Public statements of support for the work of the Court should be issued, and additional funds to enhance the security posture of the Court should be provided. Too many lives have been lost, too many peacekeepers have been deployed, and too much has been invested by the United States, both politically and financially, to allow this Court to fail and instability reign.

Mr. Secretary, we have seen your administration make valuable and visionary commitments to the people of Africa. Let us now extend that commitment to the people of west Africa by supporting the Special Court’s efforts to end the era of impunity and lawlessness in Sierra Leone, by denying Mr. Taylor a soft landing, and by urging other states to deny Mr. Taylor asylum.

Sincerely,

/s/  

/s/

HENRY J. HYDE  

EDWARD R. ROYCE

Chairman  

Chairman, Subcommittee on Africa

/s/  

/s/

CHRISTOPHER SMITH  

TOM LANTOS

Vice-Chairman  

Ranking Democratic Member

 

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