At a time that President Bush says he is taking a strong stand against tyranny, some members of Congress say he is doing little to bring one of the world’s most notorious dictators to justice.
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is under indictment by a war crimes tribunal, accused of crimes against humanity. Yet he continues to live comfortably in exile in Nigeria. International officials say he is meddling in politics in Liberia and elsewhere in West Africa.
In resolutions, floor debates and interviews, lawmakers of both parties have been urging the Bush administration to press Nigeria to turn over Mr. Taylor to the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor, a former warlord, is accused of directing Sierra Leone’s notoriously brutal Revolutionary United Front rebels and trafficking in guns and diamonds.
Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican, plans to introduce a resolution this week calling on Nigeria to transfer Mr. Taylor to the international court. The idea is “having Congress take the lead on setting a policy,” Mr. Royce said.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, top Democrat on the subcommittee that funds foreign aid, offered a measure last week calling on the United States to use “its voice and vote” at the United Nations to force Mr. Taylor’s transfer.
“Despite assurances by the State Department more than a year ago that Taylor will ultimately appear before the court, they have made little effort to get him there and, even worse, they seem to have no strategy for doing so,” Mr. Leahy said.
The State Department says it is working on getting Mr. Taylor turned over to the court, but declined to provide details. Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, said he has discussed Mr. Taylor with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other administration officials and has received assurances they would pursue the matter.
Still, he said, “I think we can do more.”
Some rights officials and congressional aides say State Department officials are divided about how hard to press Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to turn over Mr. Taylor.
Nigeria is an increasingly important strategic ally for the United States. It is a major oil producer, Africa’s most populous nation and a pivotal force in dealing with terrorism, violence in Sudan and other issues on the continent.
Moreover, Nigeria agreed to accept Mr. Taylor in 2003 at the behest of the United States and other nations to prevent further bloodshed as rebels were poised to topple his government.