14 August 2000


Press Release
SC/6910



COUNCIL ASKS SECRETARY-GENERAL, SIERRA LEONE TO NEGOTIATE AGREEMENT FOR CREATION OF INDEPENDENT SPECIAL COURT

20000814

Subject Matter Jurisdiction to Include Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes, Violations of International Law

Deeply concerned at the serious crimes committed in Sierra Leone against the people of that country and United Nations personnel, the Security Council this morning asked the Secretary-General to negotiate an agreement with the Government of that country to create an independent special court, consistent with a resolution unanimously adopted today.

By the terms of resolution 1315 (2000), the Council recommended that the subject matter jurisdiction of the special court should include crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. That jurisdiction should also include crimes committed in Sierra Leone under that country's national law.

The Council further recommended that the special court should have personal jurisdiction over persons who bore the greatest responsibility for the commission of crimes referred to in the resolution. That would include those leaders who, in committing such crimes, had threatened the establishment and the implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone.

The resolution also emphasized the importance of ensuring the impartiality, independence and credibility of the requested judicial process, particularly with regard to the status of judges and prosecutors.

By other terms of the text, the Council asked the Secretary-General to submit a report to it on the implementation of the resolution, particularly on his consultations and negotiations with the Sierra Leonean Government on the establishment of the court, no later than 30 days from today's date.

The Council also requested the Secretary-General to address in his report the questions of the temporal jurisdiction of the court, an appeals process, and a possible alternative host State, should it be necessary to convene the special court outside of Sierra Leone.

The meeting began at 10:33 a.m. and was adjourned at 10:36 a.m.

Text of Resolution

The full text of resolution 1315 (2000) reads, as follows:

"The Security Council:

"Deeply concerned at the very serious crimes committed within the territory of Sierra Leone against the people of Sierra Leone and United Nations and associated personnel and at the prevailing situation of impunity,

"Commending the efforts of the Government of Sierra Leone and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to bring lasting peace to Sierra Leone,

"Noting that the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS agreed at the 23rd Summit of the Organization in Abuja on 28 and 29 May 2000 to dispatch a regional investigation of the resumption of hostilities,

"Noting also the steps taken by the Government of Sierra Leone in creating a national truth and reconciliation process, as required by Article XXVI of the Lomé Peace Agreement (S/1999/777) to contribute to the promotion of the rule of law,

"Recalling that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General appended to his signature of the Lomé Agreement a statement that the United Nations holds the understanding that the amnesty provisions of the Agreement shall not apply to international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law,

"Reaffirming the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law, and reaffirming further that persons who commit or authorize serious violations of international humanitarian law are individually responsible and accountable for those violations and that the international community will exert every effort to bring those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards of justice, fairness and due process of law,

"Recognizing that, in the particular circumstances of Sierra Leone, a credible system of justice and accountability for the very serious crimes committed there would end impunity and would contribute to the process of national reconciliation and to the restoration and maintenance of peace,

"Taking note in this regard of the letter dated 12 June 2000 from the President of Sierra Leone to the Secretary-General and the Suggested Framework attached to it (S/2000/786, annex),

"Recognizing further the desire of the Government of Sierra Leone for assistance from the United Nations in establishing a strong and credible court that will meet the objectives of bringing justice and ensuring lasting peace,

"Noting the report of the Secretary-General of 31 July 2000 (S/2000/751) and, in particular, taking note with appreciation of the steps already taken by the Secretary-General in response to the request of the Government of Sierra Leone to assist it in establishing a special court,

"Noting further the negative impact of the security situation on the administration of justice in Sierra Leone and the pressing need for international cooperation to assist in strengthening the judicial system of Sierra Leone,

"Acknowledging the important contribution that can be made to this effort by qualified persons from West African States, the Commonwealth, other Member States of the United Nations and international organizations, to expedite the process of bringing justice and reconciliation to Sierra Leone and the region,

"Reiterating that the situation in Sierra Leone continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region,

"1. Requests the Secretary-General to negotiate an agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone to create an independent special court consistent with this resolution, and expresses its readiness to take further steps expeditiously upon receiving and reviewing the report of the Secretary-General referred to in paragraph 6 below;

"2. Recommends that the subject matter jurisdiction of the special court should include notably crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as crimes under relevant Sierra Leonean law committed within the territory of Sierra Leone;

"3. Recommends further that the special court should have personal jurisdiction over persons who bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of the crimes referred to in paragraph 2, including those leaders who, in committing such crimes, have threatened the establishment of and implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone;

"4. Emphasizes the importance of ensuring the impartiality, independence and credibility of the process, in particular with regard to the status of the judges and the prosecutors;

"5. Requests, in this connection, that the Secretary-General, if necessary, send a team of experts to Sierra Leone as may be required to prepare the report referred to in paragraph 6 below;

"6. Requests the Secretary-General to submit a report to the Security Council on the implementation of this resolution, in particular on his consultations and negotiations with the Government of Sierra Leone concerning the establishment of the special court, including recommendations, no later than 30 days from the date of this resolution;

"7. Requests the Secretary-General to address in his report the questions of the temporal jurisdiction of the special court, an appeals process including the advisability, feasibility, and appropriateness of an appeals chamber in the special court or of sharing the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda or other effective options, and a possible alternative host State, should it be necessary to convene the special court outside the seat of the court in Sierra Leone, if circumstances so require;

"8. Requests the Secretary-General to include recommendations on the following:

"(a) any additional agreements that may be required for the provision of the international assistance which will be necessary for the establishment and functioning of the special court;

"(b) the level of participation, support and technical assistance of qualified persons from Member States of the United Nations, including in particular, member States of ECOWAS and the Commonwealth, and from the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone that will be necessary for the efficient, independent and impartial functioning of the special court;

"(c) the amount of voluntary contributions, as appropriate, of funds, equipment and services to the special court, including through the offer of expert personnel that may be needed from States, intergovernmental organizations and non- governmental organizations;

"(d) whether the special court could receive, as necessary and feasible, expertise and advice from the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda;

"9. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."

Council Work Programme

When it met this morning, the Security Council had before it the Secretary- General's fifth report on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) (document S/2000/751) covering the period since his last report (document S/2000/455), issued on 19 May 2000. He recommends that the mandate of (UNAMSIL), which expires on 7 August 2000, be extended for another six months. Since durable peace throughout the country cannot be achieved by a purely military option, the preferred collective approach should be to concentrate on a robust and credible international military presence. For that purpose, the Mission's presence remains indispensable.

The Secretary-General notes that his previous report contained recommendations on the expansion of UNAMSIL, but he is reviewing the Mission's requirements in light of changing conditions on the ground and the possible adjustments in its mandate under consideration by the Security Council. In view of the need to enable UNAMSIL to fulfil new tasks in Sierra Leone, he intends to submit to the Council in the near future proposals for the Mission's further strengthening, after a thorough assessment of the political and military situation in the country.

Despite some improvements, the situation has remained dangerous and volatile, he observes. After some setbacks early in May, UNAMSIL has demonstrated its capacity assertively, especially since the successful recent rescue of military observers and troops surrounded by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) at Kailahun. Following the failure of intensive diplomatic and political efforts to seek the release of those United Nations personnel, UNAMSIL launched a robust military operation to ensure their security and restore their freedom of movement.

The report says that the majority of troops engaged in the operation were from the Indian contingent, supported by Ghanaian and Nigerian units, with logistical support provided by the United Kingdom. Nine peacekeepers have been killed during the present crisis in Sierra Leone. Seven are from Nigeria, one from India and one from Jordan. Eight soldiers are still missing. Prior to the rescue operation, the general security situation remained unpredictable owing to continuing RUF attacks on UNAMSIL and on an alliance of pro-government forces consisting of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), the Civil Defence Force and forces loyal to the former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC/ex-SLA).

According to the report, the Freetown and Lungi peninsulas remained relatively stable owing to the deployment of UNAMSIL, pro-government forces and United Kingdom troops at Lungi. RUF attacks have been carried out mostly in the northern province since the rebels' advance on Freetown was halted in May. Tension and clashes within the pro-government alliance significantly hampered its effectiveness and may have emboldened the RUF to regain territory.

The Secretary-General welcomes the Security Council's adoption on 5 July of resolution 1306 (2000), prohibiting the worldwide importation of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone, except those with a government certificate of origin, and strengthening the implementation of the embargo against the supply of arms and related materiel to non-government forces. That is an important step towards ensuring that the exploitation of diamonds will benefit the people of Sierra Leone and support its development rather than fuel a destructive civil war. He expects to announce shortly the appointment of the five-person panel established under resolution 1306 (2000), which will collect information on possible violations of the arms embargo and the link between the trade in diamonds and arms.

Emphasizing the need to remain mindful of mounting tensions along the borders of the three Mano River Union countries -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- the Secretary-General warns that, if unchecked, those tensions could contribute to the further destabilization of Liberia and cause instability in Guinea, which hosts more than 500,000 refugees from neighbouring countries. The Liberian Government had alleged that Sierra Leone supports Liberian dissidents, and accused Guinea of supporting their recent incursion into northern Liberia. Guinea has denied the accusations and Sierra Leone has alleged that Liberia is arming the RUF.

According to the report, States members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been actively seeking a solution to the Sierra Leone crisis, holding several high-level meetings attended by Oluyemi Adeniji, the Secretary-General's Special Representative. In June, the ECOWAS Committee of Six on Sierra Leone, whose task is to facilitate a cessation of hostilities, visited that country, as well as Liberia, where it met President Charles Taylor. Regrettably, the Committee was unable to secure any firm commitments. The Secretary-General met with heads of State, senior officials and military chiefs of ECOWAS countries when he attended the July summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Lomé, Togo.

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