Charles Taylor was in Accra, Ghana, attending peace talks, when the news came through that he had been indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on June 4, 2003. He fled back to Liberia, fearing arrest. Two months later, a deal between the United Nations, the United States, the African Union, and ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) was struck to get Taylor out of Liberia. Taylor then went into exile in Nigeria.
Almost three years passed before Taylor was arrested and transferred to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. His time in Nigeria did not go unchallenged, however. Civil society and others were still pushing for him to answer the charges against him in the indictment. In Abuja, Nigeria, two Nigerian businessmen, David Anyaele and Emmanuel Egbuna—whose limbs were allegedly amputated by Taylor’s forces in Liberia—challenged Taylor’s asylum and sought to have him extradited to the Special Court for Sierra Leone to face justice. But the case wound its way through the courts slowly.
Eventually, the new Liberian president, former World Bank official Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, asked for Taylor to be returned to Liberia. Twenty days later, on March 25, 2006, Nigerian president, Olusdegun Obasanjo informed Johnson-Sirleaf that Liberia was “free to take former President Charles Taylor into its custody.” Within 48 hours, Taylor went missing from his seaside villa in Nigeria. Nigerian officials raised the alarm and ordered his arrest. Taylor was caught by Nigerian authorities on March 29, 2006, as he tried to cross the Cameroon border in a Range Rover. Taylor was placed in a Nigerian Government jet with military guard and flown to Monrovia. Peacekeepers arrested him on the tarmac and put aboard a UN helicopter headed for Freetown, where he was handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Citing fears over instability in Liberia if Taylor were tried in neighboring Sierra Leone, Sirleaf-Johnson backed a bid to have Taylor’s trial moved to The Hague. The Dutch Government asked for a Security Council resolution to authorize the transfer, and said it would host Taylor’s trial on the condition that another country agreed in advance to take Taylor after his trial finished (the United Kingdom agreed). Security Council Resolution 1688 was passed unanimously on June 16, 2006, paving the way for Taylor to be tried by the Special Court on the premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Resolution 1688 also requested “all States to cooperate to this end, in particular to ensure the appearance of former President Taylor in the Netherlands for purposes of his trial by the Special Court, and encourages all States as well to ensure that any evidence or witnesses are, upon the request of the Special Court, promptly made available to the Special Court for this purpose.” After some delays, Taylor’s trial began in earnest on January 7, 2008, in The Hague.