Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Assets ?

It seems the Liberian government is trying to push through an assets freeze bill. Although the Inquirer article (see link below) doesn't explicitly state it, the bill may have serious implications for the Taylor trial.

The UN Security Council has put an assets freeze on CT and other proscribed individuals as part of a sanctions regime on Liberia. So far Ellen's government has failed to implement this particular sanction. It's hard to say if they simply can't or won't implement it, seeing that there are some highly placed individuals in the Legislature (among them CT's ex-wife, Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor) listed. However, after nearly four years of sanctions, this bill is the Liberian government's sudden effort to comply with the UN Security Council resolution. If they can pass it, then perhaps they can finally look into the murky world of Liberian finance and see who is really behind the ownership of companies like Lonestar (ie., PLC Holdings), the mobile phone company set up during CT's reign.

Back in the Hague, CT is claiming to be indigent. He says that because he doesn't have enough money to mount a defence with his own funds, he has to rely on what the Special Court is providing. This, he claims, has been inadequate so far, and hence part of the reason for him not appearing in court. In essence, he's playing to the court of public opinion, suggesting that the Special Court has it in for him and won't ensure him a fair trial. He may have a point, but it doesn't help matters that no-one can accurately establish whether he has a hidden fortune or not.

So, uncovering whether CT actually has assets or not is a key point at this stage, and movement in Liberia on this issue is an important part of solving that mystery. Having said that, this is west Africa, so all roads inevitably lead to Nigeria.

Most countries have a UN bill as part of their legal framework. This allows for UN Security Council resolutions to be over-rule existing laws, should the need arise. Liberia hasn't passed such a bill, even though it has enjoyed the presence and funding of a UN peacekeeping force. Other countries like the USA, beloved by Liberians and home to a significant number (some say around 500,000), have enforced this UN resolution as part of their legal obligation to the UN.

At the end of the day, it's funny to see Dempster Brown, noted in the article as a 'human rights lawyer' getting all worked up. Surely passing this bill would see Liberia become a responsible functioning member of the UN, might help CT prove he doesn't have cash stashed away in Liberia companies, and ultimately help strengthen the chances of the justice moving forwards at the Hague.



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