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August 2000 - Special Court for Sierra Leone

On 14 August 2000 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1315, which requested "the Secretary-General to negotiate an agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone to create an independent special court," whose subject matter jurisdiction "should include notably crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law,"

The Special Court for Sierra Leone differs from the war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR). While the ICTY and ICTR were established by Chapter VII Resolutions of the Security Council, the Special Court was a treaty-based court established by the Agreement between the UN and Sierra Leone, and lacks the power of the ICTY and ICTR to assert primacy over national courts of other States or to order the surrender of an accused located in any other State. And unlike the ICTY and ICTR, which were composed exclusively of international judges elected by the UN General Assembly, and a Prosecutor selected by the Security Council, the Special Court was composed of both international and Sierra Leonean judges, prosecutors and staff. In the summer of 2002, Sierra Leones Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) began operations. The Lome Accord had called for the establishment of a TRC to provide a forum for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations during the conflict to tell their stories and to facilitate genuine reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Final Report to the government in October 2004. In June 2005, the Government of Sierra Leone issued a White Paper on the Commissions final report which accepted some but not all of the Commissions recommendations. Members of civil society groups dismissed the governments response as too vague and continued to criticize the government for its failure to follow up on the reports recommendations.

The Special Court was established by an agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone pursuant to Security Council resolution 1315 (2000) of 14 August 2000. The Courts mandate was to try those who "bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as crimes under relevant Sierra Leonean law within the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996." The Special Court has issued indictments against individuals representing all three warring factions of Sierra Leones civil conflict in addition to the case against former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor. On June 20, 2007, the Court issued its first verdicts in the trial of the AFRC accused Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santigie Borbor Kanu, all of whom were found guilty on 11 of 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Court issued an indictment against a fourth AFRC defendant, former junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, who was rumored to have been killed, though his death remained unconfirmed.

In the trial against the leaders of the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) accused, on August 2, 2007, the court found Moinana Fofana and Allieu Kondewa guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. A third defendant in the CDF trial, Sam Hinga Norman, the former Minister of Interior and head of the CDF died in Dakar prior to the announcement of a judgment. Five alleged leaders of the RUF, Foday Saybana Sankoh, Sam Bockarie, Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon, and Augustine Gbao, were indicted on 18 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.

The indictments against Sankoh and Bockarie were withdrawn on December 8, 2003 due to the deaths of the two accused. Sesay and Kallon were found guilty of 16 counts on February 25, 2009, while Gbao was found guilty of 14 counts. On March 25, 2006, with the election of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo permitted transfer of Charles Taylor, who had been living in exile in the Nigerian coastal town of Calabar, to Sierra Leone for prosecution. Two days later, Taylor attempted to flee Nigeria, but he was apprehended by Nigerian authorities and transferred to Freetown under UN guard. Taylor was tried before the Special Court in The Hague on 11 indictments of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty 25 April 2012 of aiding and abetting grave human rights abuses and war crimes in a historic verdict by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The reading of the judgment -- which included details of terrible crimes -- lasted two hours. Taylor was the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, who briefly ruled Nazi Germany after the death of Adolf Hitler.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone sentenced Taylor to 50 years in prison 30 May 2012 for aiding rebels in Sierra Leone who committed atrocities during that country's civil war. Judges found him guilty on all 11 counts of an indictment that included charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, and recruitment of child soldiers. The court said Taylor did not have command and control of the rebels but was aware of their activities and provided them with weapons and other supplies. Taylor received so-called "blood diamonds" mined from eastern Sierra Leone in exchange for his support.

An international court in March 2015 denied a request from former Liberian president Charles Taylor to serve the rest of his 50-year prison sentence in Rwanda. The Special Court for Sierra Leone ruled there were no reasons why Taylor should not serve out his prison term in Britain's Frankland Prison. Taylor was jailed there in September 2013, after the court's appeals chamber upheld his conviction on charges of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone's civil war.

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Page last modified: 30-04-2017 13:45:46 ZULU