Detained ex-President Charles Taylor has written the African Union, complaining about the prison condition and the discrimination being meted out against him and other African detainees there, describing it as racist.
Taylor is currently appealing against his 50 years jail sentence at the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague at the ICC facility. If upheld, Taylor will serve his sentence in a UK prison.
Taylor says, European detainees are being given a more preferential and dignified treatment as compared to Africans at the International Criminal Court or ICC facility.
“In this day and time in the heart of Europe, is it unreasonable to ask to be treated fairly and with dignity?
It is a damn shame that one has to fight for equal rights and dignity in a United Nations’ facility.” Taylor told AU leaders in his memo also copied to all detained persons.
Taylor’s Memo to the AU dated May 29, 2013, a copy of which is in the possession of this paper, is said to be in the framework of Regulation 179-1 and 185-1 of the court’s registry concerning room for private visit.
The memo is in response to one issued on May 28, 2013,by the ICC following an ICRC’s visit at the facility that the Registry is faced with budgetary constraints.
However, Taylor complains that Europeans at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia or ICTY have a full size room for use during private visits, while Africans at the ICC have a tiny unfurnished cell for same purpose.
“The ICTY room is well furnished and set up in a dignified way with a bed and dignified environment with respect for human dignity away from the legal and general family visit areas,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is that the ICC has only two cells for all of its visiting programs. That includes, Legal visit, Private visits and Family visits,” Taylor continued.
He said detained persons are confined to these two adjoining cells separated by a wall in which is affixed a large transparent glass sheet designed to see through and monitor the adjoining room. “The glass is now covered with a sheet of plywood or something equivalent in order for the cell to be used for private visits,” he added.
He went on further to state that while confidentiality must be maintained, especially with legal matters, it has not been possible because whenever a legal or another family visit is going on in the adjoining room, one can hear discussions in the other room (private).
“…During family visits, the African families find themselves confined to a cell size room with their kids having nowhere to play for several hours, depending on the length of the visit; while the Europeans’ families have a large hall where their children can play”, Taylor bemoans.
He wonders while they (African detainees) have not been treated with the same sensibility and respect for human dignity provided the Europeans at the ICTY with whom they share the same building. Taylor said despite series of discussions with various ICC officials on the issue, much is yet to be done by authorities at the ICC to address the issue.
This ‘We don’t get for damn’ attitude by the Registry is further indication of Racism in the system whether intentional or otherwise…It is there. Its ugly, violates the dignity of detained person and is WRONG”, said Taylor.