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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
UK agrees to jail Charles Taylor
Charles Taylor
Charles Taylor has pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes
The British government has agreed that former Liberian leader Charles Taylor could serve a prison sentence in the UK, if he is convicted of war crimes.

This paves the way for his trial to start in The Hague, after other European countries refused to host him.

A UN-backed tribunal in Sierra Leone, where he is in prison, wants the trial to be moved due to security fears.

Mr Taylor faces 11 war crimes charges after allegedly backing rebels in the decade-long Sierra Leone civil war.

"I was delighted to be able to respond positively to the request of the United Nations Secretary General, that, should he be convicted, Charles Taylor serve his sentence in the UK," British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett said.

1989: Launches rebellion
1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone
1995: Peace deal signed
1997: Elected president
1999: Lurd starts rebellion to oust Taylor
June 2003: Arrest warrant issued
August 2003: Steps down, goes into exile in Nigeria
March 2006: Arrested, sent to Sierra Leone

However, she said new legislation would be required. Mrs Beckett said the decision showed the UK's "commitment to international justice".

The Dutch government agreed to host Mr Taylor's trial, as long as he was imprisoned in another country if he was convicted.

Both Sierra Leone and Liberia are recovering from years of conflict, in which Mr Taylor played a central role.

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who took office in January, said she feared that putting Mr Taylor on trial in West Africa could lead to renewed instability.

Britain, the former colonial power in Sierra Leone, sent troops to help oust rebels from the capital, Freetown in 2000.

Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels were notorious for mutilating civilians, by hacking off their arms or legs with machetes.

The UK's minister for Africa, Lord David Triesman, said they started the process in Sierra Leone "and we want to finish it".

"We believe that this is a really strong - probably the strongest signal you could send anywhere in Africa - that there is no impunity, that major criminals will be brought to justice and if they are sentenced they will serve their time," he told Reuters news agency.

The background to the UK decision

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