Is Mr. Charles G. Taylor A Refugee or Fugitive in Nigeria?
Counselor Frederick A.B. Jayweh, LL.M
.... anyone who commits war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the peace of others and takes refuge in foreign environments, are fugitives, and as such their punishment must be proportionate to the crimes that they commit.
Since Mr. Charles G. Taylor disgracefully and shamefully departed the Republic of Liberia in August 2003, there has been argument and counter-argument raised and highlighted as to whether Mr. Taylor is presently residing in the Federal Republic of Nigeria as refugee or a fugitive. There are those who have stated and maintained that by Mr. Taylor resigning as sitting president of the Republic of Liberia and accepting to take refuge in Nigeria, by such selfless and voluntary act, he is automatically and out-rightly granted the unrestricted right to live in the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a refugee. Therefore and as provided for and contained under international law, Mr. Taylor is immune and forever protected from arrest, detention, and left alone, he cannot be tried by any national or international tribunal, whether he committed crimes against humanity in Liberia or Sierra.
The discussants and proponents of this view stringently and forcefully argue and project that the voluntary departure of Mr. Taylor from the political scene of the Liberia and his electing to reside in Nigeria, in and of itself, amounts to, and constitutes a significant portion of the comprehensive peace agreement on Liberia. Accordingly, whether Mr. Taylor was indicted and formally charged with the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity and designated to account for the outright commission of the foregoing crimes or not, under the comprehensive peace agreement on Liberia, he is forever purged and prevented from being held responsible.
To the contrary individuals and opponents interested in having Mr. Taylor persecuted reject this view and reasoning, and maintain that because Mr. Taylor, committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the peace and security of Liberians and Liberia, more so against the nation and people of Sierra Leone, therefore, whether his departing the Republic of Liberia is consistent with a comprehensive peace agreement on Liberia or not, or be it voluntary, he is a fugitive and a designated subject for persecution. In short, Mr. Taylor is a fugitive by his act of commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, more so, for knowingly and consciously associating with, and appreciating the impact and effect of these crimes. To these Liberians, Mr. Taylor is a fugitive and not a refugee, and as such, he is not protected under either national or international law.
In fact, these individuals forcefully argue and say that because the alleged crimes committed by Mr. Taylor both in Liberia and Sierra Leone are basically addressable by and under international law, no amount of local contract and/or accord is sufficient and enough to sustain and shield him against being arrested, detained and tried as a fugitive. So then, whether Mr. Taylor is living in Nigeria as the result of a comprehensive peace agreement or not, he is a fugitive and as such, must be arrested, detained and tried for the crimes as provided for under his indictment and international law. In the midst of all of these confusion and discontentment, is Mr. Charles G. Taylor living in Nigeria as a Refugee or Fugitive?
Is Taylor A Refugee in Nigeria?
To begin with, for an individual to be designated and treated as a refugee under international law, and specifically the Immigration and Nationality Law of the United States, certain legal dynamics and demands must be satisfied and met. That is, such individual or claimant to the refugee or asylse status bears the primary responsibility and duty to ensure that the foregoing happen:
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he/she has credible fear of persecution.
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he/she has well-founded fear of persecution.
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he/she has credible fear of future persecution.
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence of past persecution.
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he/she is unable and unwilling to return to his country for fear of persecution.
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he/she is unable and unwilling to entrust his/her security to the protection of the persecuting country.
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that his credible and well-founded fear of persecution is on the account of his race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or because of his/her political opinion.
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing that he/she has committed no particularly serious offense in the country from which he seeks to be protected.
- Demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he/she has never ordered, incited, assisted and participated in the unlawful persecution of anyone.
And lastly, demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he/she shall always have and maintain the reasonable possibility of fear of persecution. (INA 101 (a)(42)(A), 8 USCS section 1101 (a)(42)(A).
Is Mr. Taylor covered under the foregoing standard and test for the grant of asylum to an individual as proposed and projected by those who argue to the contrary, bearing in mind the political and human rights record of Mr. Taylor? Or to strictly put it, are these disciples and supporters of Mr. Taylor out-rightly and clearly convinced that he committed no offense or particularly serious crimes while sitting as president of Liberia, and as such he needs not to be arrested, detained and tried for the commission and appreciation of these crimes, or should he be designated and treated as a fugitive, whether living in Nigeria or not, and because his entire record in West Africa remains representative of such?
Is Mr. Taylor A Fugitive in Nigeria?
Whether Mr. Taylor is to be designated and tried as a fugitive or not, primarily depends on the historical account of his role and leadership in Liberia and perhaps Sierra Leone. In other words, for a person to be designated and treated as a fugitive under local or international law, the history of his/her life must have reflected the foregoing:
- Consciously and knowingly, he/she must have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity.
- Consciously and appreciatively, he/she must have committed particularly serious crimes.
- Conscious and knowingly, he/she must have committed genocide.
- Consciously and knowing, he/she must have incited and participated in the unlawful persecution of others.
- Consciously and knowingly, he/she must have committed particularly serious crimes and fled from justice into foreign parts.
- Consciously and massively, he/she must have willfully destroyed the lives and properties of others.
- Consciously and knowingly, he/she must have committed crimes against the peace and dignity of others.
- Consciously and knowingly, he/she must have violated the law of war.
- Consciously and knowingly, he/she must have engaged in the willful killing, torturing and in the inhumane treatment of others.
- Consciously and knowingly, he/she must have murdered, tortured and mutilated the physical body parts of others.
- Consciously and in pursuant of his/her political ambition or objectives, he/she must have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against peace.
- Consciously and knowingly, he/she must have caused the willful suffering and serious bodily harm to others.
- And lastly and amongst other war crimes offenses, he/she must have caused the willful enslavement and confinement of others. International Human Rights, Problems of Law, Policy and Practice, 839-855.
Consistent with the foregoing and having definitively stated and under code what makes an individual a refugee or fugitive, must Mr. Taylor be arrested, detained and tried for knowingly and consciously committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia and Sierra Leone, though he operated as a rebel and later a constitutional president? The unrestricted answer to this question is YES. Under international law, no commander is permitted to murder, torture, mutilate and subject his prisoners or the civilian population to willful killing and suffering, whether he/she acted as sitting president, or that such crimes were committed by others under his command.
In short, an individual who commits war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity as is representative of Mr. Taylor and his record in Liberia and Sierra Leone, whether he acted as head of state or as a responsible government official does not relieve him from the responsibility for the commission of such crimes. Mr. Taylor’s record while acting as chief rebel and later constitutional president, clearly and without any doubt makes him guilty both under national and international. Therefore, Mr. Taylor, as well as all those who assisted and associated with him in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia and left alone in Sierra Leone, must be arrested, detained and tried, whether they fled from justice, and they currently reside outside of Liberia or not. Mr. Taylor is NOT a refugee, but a fugitive by definition and living in Nigeria. Therefore, he must be arrested, detained and held to account for all of his acts, be it whether any of his disciples are residing in exile or seeking the highest office in Liberia, or other offices come October 2005.
Let it be known that whether state actors or none officials of government, anyone who commits war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the peace of others and takes refuge in foreign environments, they are fugitives, and as such their punishment must be proportionate to the crimes that they commit. In short and under international law, the death penalty may be imposed for the grave and conscious breach of international relative to war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the peace and dignity of others.
A HINT to the wise is enough and clearly sufficient.
May God continue to bless and save Liberia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Counselor-At-Law, Frederick A.B. Jayweh worked as a Human Rights Lawyer in Liberia, he is a member of the Liberian National Bar Association, former Executive Director of Civil Rights Association of Liberian Lawyers, Inc., and an LL.M graduate of University of Denver College of Law, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. Counselor Jayweh can be reached at: 303-884-2653 and email@example.com
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