The court established to prosecute those responsible for killing committed during the 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone’s will soon deliver its final judgment.
Justice Shireen Avis Fisher president of the court’s, reveals to the UN Security Council on Tuesday that due to his vision the court has succeeded in prosecuting and convicting the worst perpetrators of killings, systematic mutilation and other atrocities. But has also become a model for bringing justice in Sierra Leone. The court was established in 2002 and is set up jointly by the UN and the Sierra Leone government with a mix of local and international prosecutors and judges.
When the court was established, it was expected to operate for three years on voluntary contributions and in October 2009 eight convictions except for the prosecution of former Liberian president Charles Taylor were completed. The 64-year-old ex leader, who didn’t surrender until 2006, has been convicted and sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity for aiding and assisting murderous rebels during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Since World War II, Taylor has become the first former head of state to be poisoned by an international war crimes court. But he has appealed the convictions, calling them a miscarriage of justice, and prosecutors have appealed the court’s decision to exonerate him on more serious charges and are urging an increased sentence of 80 years behind bars. Fisher told the council the appeals court will deliver the final judgment on Taylor’s guilt or innocence soon.
The court is the first mix court created in order to assist a country that sought after post-conflict justice but didn’t have the ability to ensure it. The court is the first UN-sponsored tribunal to carry out works in a country where international humanitarian laws has been seriously violated. Its aim was to ensure that survivors of the civil war could participate in justice and not as only as passersby.
The court’s prosecutor, Brenda Hollis, said that the court has set many precedents and has also faced many challenges over the past years including ensuring the security of more than 300 prosecution witnesses before, during and after their trials. She noted that this year the court has convicted five people of contempt for interfering with witnesses.
The court is the first to recognize forced marriage as a crime against humanity and sexual violence as a form of terrorism. It was also the first to develop law on the recruitment and use of child soldiers which was used later by the International Criminal Court, and the first to rule on issues of immunity for sitting heads of state and on the crime of attacks on peacekeepers says Fisher. The Special Court has developed not only jurisprudence, but also tools, practices and programs addressing the specific needs of a post-conflict society. It is ready to share the knowledge and expertise it has gained with others.