7 February 2014

Liberia: Taylor Complains From Prison Again

Ex-president Charles Taylor has written the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone from his UK prison cell through his lawyer, repeating complaints of hash treatment and denial of family visitation.

Taylor, 65, is currently married to Mrs. Victoria Addison Taylor with whom he has three young daughters, ages 10, 7 and 3.

His conviction for aiding and abetting RUF rebels was upheld on September 26, 2013, following his guilty verdict on 26 April 2012 by the Trial Chamber. On 30 May 2012, the Trial Chamber sentenced him to a prison term of 50 years.

In his letter dated January 16, 2014, a copy of which is in the possession of this paper, Taylor wrote through his lawyer, John RWD Jones, saying among other things, that the UK is not capable of, and should not be entrusted with, his continued imprisonment.

"The UK has a duty to ensure that Mr. Taylor enjoys family visits, notwithstanding his incarceration to serve a 50 year sentence, and it has signally failed to do so," Jones wrote.

He further questioned whether the UK has shown itself capable of holding him in a humane and appropriate conditions of imprisonment, adding that "The initial discriminatory treatment meted out to Mr. Taylor by sending him, alone of all SCSL detainees, out of Africa to the UK, must be continued no longer."

He recounted how, while in detention in The Hague, over a period of 7 ½ years, Mr. Taylor received family visits facilitated via diplomatic channels by the relevant authorities in the Netherlands.

But said the UK, by contrast, insists that Mr. Taylor's family must meet the necessary UK Visa Requirements prior to being able to visit him in prison.

"This typically involves extremely stringent criteria under the Immigration Rules specifically designed to deter people from overstaying in the UK," he bemoaned.

On 29 November 2013, Mrs. Taylor and her two youngest daughters applied to UK Visas & Immigration for entry clearance to visit the UK in order to spend time with Mr. Taylor. On 3 January 2014, UK Visas & Immigration refused all three applications.

Although an appeal is being considered, but Jones said the prospects of a different outcome are low because even a successful appeal would only result in a de novo application of the same rules.

He said moreover, it is prohibitively expensive for Mrs. Taylor and her children to make repeated applications to the UKBA; there being no UK Embassy in Liberia, they must travel to Accra, in Ghana, for each application and appeal. There is no other avenue available to Mr. Taylor's wife and children to enter the UK.

He added that the denial of visas to Mrs. Taylor and her children over the Christmas period had already caused grave prejudice to Mr. Taylor, in that the ex-Liberian president was unable to see his family over the Christmas holidays and, since his children are in school, that means he will not have another chance of a visit from them for many months. "This is unacceptable," Jones screamed.

"Given Mr. Taylor is currently 65 years old and his term of imprisonment is 50 years, if current conditions continue, Mr. Taylor is unlikely to have any physical contact with his wife and 3 children for the rest of his life. This extraordinarily grave consequence could be avoided, if Mr. Taylor was transferred to the UNDF in Rwanda," he said.

"Mr. Taylor's incarceration at HMP Frankland is in breach of the basic norms of the UN Minimum Rules, as well as Mr. Taylor's rights to equal treatment and respect to family life under UK law, including the best interests of his children. Mr. Taylor's imprisonment is therefore non-compliant with Article 23(2) of the Statute of the Residual Special Court and Article 3(2) of the UK Agreement, under which it ought to be governed by UK law.

The RSCSL is responsible, pursuant to its supervisory mandate under Article 23(2) of its Statute and Article 3(2) of the UK Agreement, to ensure that persons convicted by the SCSL are subject to appropriate and humane treatment in accordance with the Minimum Rules. I therefore respectfully request the RSCSL's intervention in this matter on an urgent basis. I also invite representatives of the RSCSL and/or the Council of Europe's Committee on the Prevention of Torture to visit Mr. Taylor at the earliest opportunity.

I reiterate that, since the UK is unable to fulfill its obligations to ensure family visits for Mr. Taylor, because of its immigration rules or for any other reason that only goes to show that the UK is not a suitable place for Mr. Taylor to be imprisoned. To alleviate the disproportionate curtailment of his and his children's rights, Mr. Taylor should be immediately transferred from the UK to the UNDF in Rwanda. This would comply with the basic norms and practices required by the UN.

On that basis I respectfully repeat my request of 26 November 2013 that orders be made for the RSCSL Registrar to:

(i) fully investigate the conditions of Mr. Taylor's imprisonment at HMP Frankland including restrictions to family visits;

(ii) fully investigate all sentence enforcement issues with regard to the UK Agreement, including, inter alia, the manner in which the sentence is being enforced by the UK and whether it conforms with the standards set by States that enforce sentences of the SCSL;

(iii) report its findings to the President and any Panel comprising RSCSL Judges assigned by the President; and

(iv) terminate the enforcement of Mr. Taylor's sentence in the UK and transfer him to the UNDU in Rwanda." The letter concluded.

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