Taylor’s accounts blocked as provisional measure

Legal assistance requested by Special Court for Sierra Leone

Press Release, FOJ, 23.06.2003

Bern, 23.6.2003. Acting in response to an request for legal assistance, the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) has ordered that any accounts of Liberian President Charles Taylor and further persons be blocked as a provisional measure. The Special Court for Sierra Leone accuses Taylor of being one of the main perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes during the civil war. The FOJ has to date not received any reports from banks on the volume of assets blocked.

On 19 June 2003, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) requested the FOJ to block the assets of Liberian President Charles Taylor in Switzerland and to obtain the relevant bank records. The request for legal assistance also extends to relatives of Taylor’s, members of his regime and various businesspeople and companies. Taylor is accused by the SCSL of providing financial and military support to two rebel groups and aiding them in their attacks on the civilian population during the civil war in Sierra Leone from 1996 to 2001. In return, Taylor is said to have received uncut diamonds. He is claimed to have invested the proceeds from the diamond sales in a number of countries, including Switzerland.

The FOJ instructed various banks in Geneva and Zurich to take the precautionary step of blocking any accounts of the persons cited in the application for legal assistance. Following a formal preliminary examination, it will delegate enactment of the application to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland.

A contribution to national reconciliation and peace

The independent Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up last year following an agreement between the UN and the Sierra Leone government. After many years of civil war in the country, part of the court's remit is to support the national reconciliation process and to help restore and maintain peace. Its role will be to punish those responsible for the crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of humanitarian law that have been committed in this West African state. Switzerland is supporting this process by providing two experts to the SCSL for a period of three years. The legal basis for Switzerland’s cooperation with the SCSL came into effect on 1 March 2003.

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