Journal Article

A Turning Point in International Efforts to Apprehend War Criminals

Micaela Frulli

in Journal of International Criminal Justice

Volume 4, issue 2, pages 351-361
Published in print May 2006 | ISSN: 1478-1387
Published online May 2006 | e-ISSN: 1478-1395 | DOI:
A Turning Point in International Efforts to Apprehend War Criminals

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With Resolution 1638 (2005), the UN Security Council requested the peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to apprehend and detain former President Charles Taylor in the event of his return to Liberia, and to transfer him to the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). This new task assigned to a UN peacekeeping mission is a significant departure from previous practice. Although there are a few precedents of military troops acting within the framework of UN missions which have been authorized to arrest war criminals, the conferral of an explicit and clear mandate constitutes a welcome novelty. This resolution is indicative of the trend emerging in the UN Security Council's practice to combat impunity by enhancing the rule of law and promoting international criminal justice; in particular, it is notable because it evinces the Security Council's willingness to strengthen cooperation with international criminal tribunals. The examination of the precedents (UNOSOM II: Second United Nations Operation in Somalia and IFOR/SFOR, the NATO-led multinational force deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina) is useful for the discussion of legal issues raised by Resolution 1638. The task of arresting a war criminal can easily be reconciled with the non-coercive nature of UN peacekeeping operations, provided that the consent of all parties involved is secured. Interestingly, UNMIL troops are not only authorized but also obliged to implement Resolution 1638.

After completion of this article, on 29 March 2006, Taylor was arrested while trying to flee Nigeria. He was put on a jet bound for Liberia, where at the airport he was taken into custody by UNMIL peacekeepers and flown by UN helicopter to the SCSL detention facilities at Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Journal Article.  4983 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law ; International Law

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