Liberia / Charles Taylor Update

On the issue of who in Congress wants Charles Taylor captured, see also the Africa Subcommittee of the House Committee on International Relations. In the transcript (PDF) of their October 2 hearing, “U.S. Policy Toward Liberia,” it’s pretty clear that Chairman Royce (R-Orange County) has it in for Taylor and is eager to use Congressional muscle (such as it is) to get something done. I’m betting this is one of the only issues on which Royce and Kofi Annan will ever find themselves in agreement.

Take a moment and note the shoddy web design of the Committee’s web site. If I’m not mistaken that’s one of the Microsoft Frontpage default style templates that it’s sporting. And check out the portraits of the members: all grainy pictures, some of which have clearly been Photoshopped sloppily out of a larger group pic. Come on, people. You’re the United States Congress. You’re embarrassing us.

The only new wrinkle to the exile issue is that Interpol has issued a global notice for Taylor’s arrest. Nigeria has repeated its earlier statements that nothing short of a request from the Liberian government would prompt it to feed its guest to the wolves. But given Interpol’s vast resources and increased stature stemming from its role in the war on terrorism, it’s only a matter of time before President Obasanjo will have to relent.

Ha! That last bit was a joke. I can’t think of the last time I heard about Interpol in the news, which when you think about it is kind of odd when our current “war” must of necessity involve pursuing dangerous individuals and small groups across numerous nations and jurisdictions. Seems like they could be useful, but I’m sure the Bushies have as much interest in working with Interpol as they do with the U.N. I’m not sure how much use I’d have for them either, though: we’re talking about an organization where “football hooliganism” makes the front of their website as a top issue, not far from a press release bragging “Interpol joins Microsoft in fight against cybercrime.” Ah well. The upside about its being a body without a lot of power is that, well, would you really want a police force with worldwide jurisdiction and nebulous accountability having that much more power?

When it comes to Taylor, what they’ve done is issue a Red Notice, which is basically an arrest warrant without any intrinsic legal backing. This particular notice alerts the world to the fact that the Special Court in Sierra Leone wants Taylor. The interesting twist is that in Nigeria the notice does have some legal oomph, because the ECOWAS Convention on Extradition officially recognizes a Red Notice as an “official channel for transmitting requests for provisional arrest.”

I doubt anything will actually come of the Red Notice. What’s far more interesting to speculate about is whether U.S. pressure (specifically, pressure from guys like Royce and Wolf) helped to get it issued in the first place. Based on my complete lack of any sort of inside information, and my reliance on the poor man’s Lexis-Nexis, I’d have to say ‘no’, unfortunately.

Back in Liberia, the massive U.N. project to disarm the warring factions is facing resistance, including both riots and recent bloodshed in Monrovia. That first article contains this sentence: “Under the UN scheme, which is due to last nine months, the fighters will also be given counselling and vocational training.”

Counseling. Vocational training. You’re a 13-year-old from upcountry who is probably addicted to speed and has known nothing but killing since you were 8. You’ve probably committed atrocities that beggar description but that you have come to consider routine. I’m trying to picture just what the social worker might say to break the ice. Or just what vocation you might be suited for. About the only hopeful thing to say about the whole project is that doing nothing would be far worse.

UPDATE: Northbridge is still gunning for a chance to go get Taylor. Thanks to Ed Hand for spotting the news, a couple hours old.