Friday, August 22, 2003

Discussion: International Plea Bargaining

There's an interesting diplomatic, legal, and ethical question raised in this CS Monitor editorial regarding Charles Taylor. The editorial advocates for Taylor's prosecution for war crimes, primarily on the grounds that not doing so sets a bad precedent and that his continued presence in the region will hinder rebuilding in Liberia. Personally, I feel that pursuing prosecution against Taylor would itself set a bad precedent. Taylor's exile in Nigeria was, after all, arranged at the urging of the US, the UN, the African Union, and ECOWAS. I see it as a form of international plea bargaining. It was critical to foreign intervention that outside forces come in as peace keepers and not as agents of regime change as the US was in Afghanistan and Iraq. The support did not exist to mount that sort of aggressive operation. In order to create the necessary environment to end the conflict, this offer of safe haven was extended to Taylor, with full knowledge of the charges against him. This strikes me as an important tool in the arsenal of the international institutions in their efforts to make and enforce peace. Prosecuting Taylor after he agreed to the terms set out would effectively remove this option for future interventions. It is clear that the exact details of the offer were never hammered out, nor does it appear the deal ever given any legal force. There is still room to negotiate exactly what the terms are, with regards to Taylor's freedom of movement and his contact with former associates. I think there are steps that can and should be taken to make the conditions of his stay in Nigeria more restrictive. But to my mind it is more important that the basic terms of the deal are upheld than it is that Taylor is brought to justice.

No comments: