THE HAGUE -- Former Liberian president Charles Taylor arrived in the Netherlands yesterday for a war crimes trial on charges accusing him in the death, rape, or mutilation of hundreds of thousands of people in West Africa.
Taylor was taken on a UN-chartered plane from Sierra Leone, where he had been in detention since March 29. Two police vans and five motorcycle outriders were waiting at a small commercial airport south of The Hague.
Taylor faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his alleged role while Liberia's president in backing Sierra Leonean rebels, who terrorized victims by cutting off arms, legs, ears, and lips during the country's 1991-2002 civil war.
Although the charges refer only to Sierra Leone, Taylor is also accused of fomenting violence in his homeland and elsewhere in West Africa.
The Sierra Leone court had asked the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court to host the trial, fearing Taylor's trial in Africa might revive regional instability. The Sierra Leone court's officials will conduct the proceedings, with the ICC providing courtrooms and a jail during the trial.
Liberia's new president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, had also called for the trial to be held outside Africa because of security concerns. In an interview with CNN yesterday, she said Taylor still has supporters in Liberia who might react to his trial.
She added she was confident ``justice will ultimately be served," freeing Liberians to focus on the future.
The Netherlands agreed to host the trial on condition that a third country jail Taylor if he is convicted or take him in if acquitted. Denmark, Austria, and Sweden had all rejected requests to jail Taylor, but Britain volunteered last week.
The road to trial for Taylor began when he went into exile in Nigeria in August 2003 as part of a deal that helped end Liberia's 14-year civil war. After the Nigerian government agreed in March to a request from Liberia's new president to hand him over, he tried to slip away but was captured and flown to Sierra Leone.
He has been in the Special Court's detention facilities in the Sierra Leonean capital since March 29 and pleaded not guilty at an April 3 arraignment.
Taylor launched an insurgency in Liberia in 1989, plunging the country into a civil war that led to the deaths of 200,000 people.