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Former Liberian president found guilty of war crimes: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2012 p 7 May 21, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of West Africa.
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Former Liberian President Charles Taylor

Church leaders have applauded the guilty verdict handed down last week against former Liberian President Charles Taylor, saying the conviction of a former head of state for war-crimes is a landmark victory for the rule of law – and a warning to those responsible for atrocities that they will be held to account for their crimes.

“Charles Taylor’s conviction sends an important message not only to his victims and supporters but also to the wider world community that all deserve justice and that no one is beyond accountability for crimes against humanity,” said the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Foster, whose diocese is linked with the Church of the Province of West Africa.

Bishop Foster told The Church of England Newspaper: “This step towards justice will hopefully send a clear message and assist the growing stability of both Sierra Leone and Liberia.”

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Cape Palmas Andrew Karnley told the Catholic NGO Aid to the Church in Need the verdict sends a “strong signal, and not just for Liberia.”

“The important fact is that Taylor was taken to account. This is a clear signal: those who hold responsibility must take responsibility for their actions, Bishop Karnley said.

On 26 April 2012 the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) found Taylor guilty on multiple counts of war crimes – the first head of state convicted by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials.  In March 2003 Taylor was indicted on multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  While serving as President of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, and as commander of the Libyan-backed rebel group the National Patriotic Front for Liberian from 1989 to 1997, Taylor was found to have helped plan, order and encourage the murder, rape, mutilation and terrorism of civilians, promoting sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers.

Under the terms of the peace agreement that ended the civil war, Taylor left Liberia and went into exile in Nigeria.  But in 2006 he was extradited to Sierra Leone at the request of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to stand trial for war crimes after he violated the terms of his exile by re-entering Liberian politics.  A court set up by the government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations tried nine leaders including former President Taylor – but security concerns eventually prompted the trial to be moved from Freetown to The Hague, where the verdict was handed down last week.

The guilty verdict was a “watershed moment in the fight to hold high-level perpetrators accountable”, said Gilles Yabi, the International Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “It is also a momentous day for the victims’ families, who have waited patiently for this ruling since the court began its work.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.


Bishops’ plea to keep shipyard open: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2012 p 7. February 2, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Bishop Christopher Foster

The Bishops of Portsmouth have urged BAE Systems not to shutter their shipyard at the city’s naval dockyard and end 800 years of shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

In a joint statement released on 24 January 2012, the Anglican bishop, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Foster, and the Roman Catholic bishop, the Rt. Rev. Crispian Hollis, stated they were “concerned about the reports that suggest BAE Systems may be reviewing their presence in Portsmouth Dockyard. If BAE Systems were to pull out, the viability of the whole dockyard could be at stake.”

“The Dockyard has been at the heart of Portsmouth for centuries, and it would be a real blow to the city if this review threatened its future. It’s not just the 3,000 people who work there and their families who would be affected, but also those other local businesses who depend on the dockyard for their survival. At a time when so many are already facing economic stress, this is the last thing they needed to hear,” the bishops said.

Union and government leaders joined the bishops in calling for BAE Systems to keep the dockyard open.  However, a spokesman for the company said it was reviewing how to “retain the capability to deliver and support complex warships in the UK in the future” and would keep its employees and their union representatives “fully informed” of the progress.

The hull and stern of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth were built at the yard, while the flight deck was constructed in Birkenhead.  Work is currently being completed at the Rosyth dockyard.  Construction of a second 65,000 tonne carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales, is scheduled to begin shortly and will keep the yard open until 2016.

The company is in negotiations with the MoD over the a contract to construct a new fleet of Type 25 frigates, which would keep the dockyard busy for a decade and has prompted speculation from some union leaders the redundancy rumors are part of the company’s negotiating strategy with the government.