Liberia’s jailed ex-President Charles Taylor ‘wants presidential pension’

By IndepthAfrica
In Liberia
Jan 16th, 2013
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Former Liberian President Charles Taylor waits for the start of the sentencing hearing in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands. Picture: Evert-Jan Daniels Source: AP

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor waits for the start of the sentencing hearing in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands. Picture: Evert-Jan Daniels Source: AP

Liberia’s jailed ex-President and war criminal Charles Taylor appears to have written to MPs demanding an annual state pension of $25,000 (£15,600).

Liberian Senate Secretary Nanborloh Singbeh said the letter would be discussed by MPs next week.

The letter purportedly from Taylor says the withholding of his presidential pension is a “mammoth injustice”.

Last May, a UN-backed court sentenced him to 50 years in prison on 11 counts of war crimes.

He became the first former head of state to be convicted on such charges by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of Nazis after World War II.

Taylor, who is in jail at The Hague, is appealing against the judgement by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

It ruled that as Liberia’s president, he aided and abetted Sierra Leone’s rebels during the 1991-2002 civil war.

Family’s needs

The BBC’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh reports from the capital, Monrovia, that the signature on the letter very much looks like that of Taylor.

However, the letter contains some simple spelling errors, such as “principal” for principle, “cease” for seize and “giving” for given, he says.

This has raised questions about whether Taylor personally wrote the letter, our correspondent adds.

However, Taylor’s brother-in-law Arthur Saye told our reporter that the ex-president did write the letter.

The letter also calls for the government to give accommodation and diplomatic passports to Taylor’s wife Victoria and his two daughters.

“The fact is that I have not received my entitlement as set out under the law as a former president of Liberia since I resigned the office on August 11, 2003,” the letter to the senate reads.

“May I, with respect, request in this formal manner the intervention of this august body in bringing an end to this mammoth injustice and cause my law annuities to be made available to me.”

Taylor is also quoted in the letter as saying that he is entitled to consular access and diplomatic services at The Hague, but he has been “denied that right”.

Our correspondent says Liberian law states that a former president who has “honourably retired to private life and who is not in any way gainfully employed by government” would receive a pension equal to half the salary of the incumbent president.

Taylor timeline

Sierra Leone-Liberia map

• 1989: Launches rebellion in Liberia

• 1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone

• 1997: Elected president after a 1995 peace deal

• 1999: Liberia’s Lurd rebels start an insurrection to oust Taylor

• June 2003: Arrest warrant issued; two months later he steps down and goes into exile to Nigeria

• March 2006: Arrested after a failed escape bid and sent to Sierra Leone

• June 2007: His trial opens – hosted in The Hague for security reasons

• April 2012: Convicted of aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes

• May 2012: Sentenced to 50 years in jail

• June 2012: His lawyers say he will appeal against his conviction

Taylor was forced into exile in Nigeria in 2003 after the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) rebel movement laid siege to Monrovia.

His private villa on the outskirts of the city is in a poor state and his once prestigious mansion in his hometown of Arthington, some 40km (25 miles) west of Monrovia, is in ruins and covered by overgrown vegetation, our correspondent says.

The letter also told legislators of the “sacred and overriding” principle that “justice must not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”, our reporter adds.

The letter was read out during a plenary session of the upper house on Tuesday, and would be discussed by MPs next week, Mr Singbeh said.

Senator Lahai Lansanah, who is a member of the governing United Party (UP), said: “Taylor’s request about retirement benefits should be given due consideration because he served this country as president.”

Taylor was arrested in 2006, while trying to flee Nigeria.

He apparently feared that the Nigerian government would bow to pressure from the US to hand him over to the UN-backed court to stand trial.

The court was set up in 2002 to try those who bore the greatest responsibility for the war in Sierra Leone in which some 50,000 people were killed.

During the appeals process, Taylor will remain in The Hague. BBC

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