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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 09:37 GMT
Diamonds and Justice

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor in court
Diamonds and Justice
26 February 2008
1900 GMT on BBC Two
This World asks whether Charles Taylor's trial will bring accountability to the continent of Africa or will it be seen as a new colonialism in what some Africans regard as "a white man's court"?

The former Liberian leader Charles Taylor is currently on trial at the Hague.

He faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over his alleged role in the brutal civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone, where he is accused of backing rebels responsible for widespread atrocities.

Mr Taylor has denied charges he ordered the rebels' atrocities.

This World meets Taylor's defence team, who argue that the trial is politics, not justice. They say it is a neo-colonial superpower conspiracy against Africa and its leaders.

After all, if Taylor can be prosecuted for his aggressive foreign policy, why aren't Bush and Blair also in the dock?

Support and condemnation

The programme travels to Liberia, where Taylor was President, and discovers the huge support that he still has.

Were he to return, his supporters claim they would vote for him again.

His ex-wife, Jewel, who is today a Senator in the Liberian parliament argues Charles Taylor is innocent.

"It's hard," she says "when you look at women and children whose hands and legs have been cut off. But who was it who amputated their limbs? Not Charles Taylor. It was Sierra Leonian people who did that. I love him very much and do not believe he is the evil genius they say".

But in Sierra Leone, where Taylor is accused of supporting the rebel army that committed the atrocities, it's not hard to find people that condemn him.

Whether or not Taylor is found guilty, $33m (17m) is spent every year on bringing him and other rebel leaders to account, while the victims of the war have received no compensation. Many are forced to beg for their food.

This World asks whether Taylor's trial at the Hague is going to be the first of many, finally bringing accountability and good governance to the people of Africa?

Or, in choosing to punish Taylor ahead of the many Western leaders who flout international rules, have we already opened ourselves to accusations of politics over justice?

Reporter / Producer: Olenka Frenkiel
Director: Olly Bootle
Executive Producer: Louise Norman

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