|Wanted: Liberian President, |
A statement from the prosecutor, David Crane, said the indictment accused Taylor of "bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law within the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996".
Taylor is currently in Ghana's capital Accra for peace talks with rebels who have been fighting to topple him since 2000.
The statement added that the court had served a warrant for his arrest on Ghanaian authorities and transmitted the arrest warrant to Interpol.
In December 2000, a panel of international experts commissioned by the United Nations Security Council on Liberia's role in Sierra Leone's civil war issued a damning report implicating Liberia in a "blood diamond" trade with Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
The UN report said Taylor benefited personally from the sale of diamonds looted by the Liberian-backed RUF, led by Foday Sankoh.
Sankoh himself has been detained in Sierra Leone on charges of murder during the 10 year civil war in which an estimated 50,000 people were killed.
Taylor supported Sierra
The UN-backed court has been questioning suspected war criminals for atrocities such as amputation of civilians' limbs, mass rape and the forced recruitment of child soldiers – trademark RUF crimes intended to instill mass fear among civilians.
Window of opportunity
Accusing the Liberian leader of fermenting war in the West Africa, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution imposing a series of sanctions on Liberia, including a travel ban on President Taylor, his immediate family and many senior officials of the Liberian government, as well as a ban on export of diamonds.
Since the sanctions came into effect, Sierra Leone’s civil war has ended, and Taylor, who escaped prison in the US before fleeing to West Africa and obtaining power amid disputed electoral practices in 1997, has enjoyed little respectability within the international community.
As the leader of a sovereign country, he is unlikely to be arrested in Liberia, but his trip to Ghana has opened a window of opportunity that might bring him into custody.