SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE FACES FUNDING CRISIS, AS CHARLES TAYLOR TRIAL GETS UNDER WAY, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD TODAY IN BRIEFING BY COURT’S SENIOR OFFICIALS
SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE FACES FUNDING CRISIS, AS CHARLES TAYLOR TRIAL GETS UNDER WAY, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD TODAY IN BRIEFING BY COURT’S SENIOR OFFICIALS
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5690th Meeting* (PM)
SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE FACES FUNDING CRISIS, AS CHARLES TAYLOR TRIAL GETS
UNDER WAY, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD TODAY IN BRIEFING BY COURT’S SENIOR OFFICIALS
Deputy Secretary-General Says Court Offers Hope to Future Generations;
Praises All Who Worked Selflessly to Ensure Lasting Legacy of Justice, Rule of Law
Warning that the Special Court for Sierra Leone could run out of money by the end of November 2007, top officials from the chronically underfunded tribunal today appealed for an additional $60 million to complete the Court’s work by the end of 2009, including the anticipated costs associated with its case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor, currently facing war crimes charges in The Hague.
Briefing the Security Council on the Special Court’s achievements and challenges, the Court’s President, George Gelaga King, called on United Nations Member States to urgently address the funding shortfall. Even as the tribunal was winding down its work, it required secure funding, he said. Court officials had recently finalized a completion budget that outlined its financial requirements from 1 July to 31 December 2007. The total budget amount was some $89 million, but, at the current rate, available funds would be exhausted by November 2007. “This is of grave and imminent concern,” Mr. King said.
If the Special Court was to adhere to the 2009 timeline to complete its work, it was vital to assure adequate financial support, he said. Funding was also needed to complete three trials of eight other defendants currently taking place in Freetown. Other critical activities, such as long-term witness protection, would require further funds. Unlike the United Nations war crimes Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Sierra Leone Court was not financed by the world body, and must raise operating funds primarily through voluntary contributions of United Nations Member countries.
The Freetown-based Court, established in 2002 by an agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations, is mandated to try “those who bear greatest responsibility” for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the country after 30 November 1996. The Special Court indicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor in 2003 on 11 counts of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including mass murder, for his role in the brutal decade-long civil war that engulfed Sierra Leone during the 1990s.
The Special Court relocated Taylor’s trial to The Hague last June, due to its concerns over stability in the region if his trial was held in Sierra Leone. The International Criminal Court has lent its facilities for the Special Court to hold the trial in The Hague. Opening arguments were heard in the trial this past Monday.
Mr. King said the projection was that trial proceedings would last until November 2008 and that a judgement on the merits and, if applicable, on sentencing, would be issued in June 2009. Possible appeals might start in Freetown as of July 2008. Any appeals proceedings were expected to last approximately six months for each case, and be concluded in the cases against leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) by December 2008. It was expected that the Appeals Chamber would complete a possible appeal in the Taylor case by December 2009.
Calling the trial of Charles Taylor a “watershed for international justice”, Stephen Rapp, Prosecutor of the Special Court, said that that proceeding and the Court’s other trials were evidence of the international community’s commitment to ensure accountability for crimes as heinous and widespread as those committed in Sierra Leone. “They make a clear statement that crimes such as mutilations -- the chopping off of arms and legs -- sexual enslavement of women and girls, and the use of child soldiers cannot go unpunished,” he declared.
“Finally, the Special Court needs funding,” he said, stressing that the tribunal had demonstrated itself to be a transparent and cost-effective operation. Additional funds in the amount of $60 million would be needed to finance its operations until the completion of its mandate. The challenges facing the Court were serious, he said, encouraging all Member States to renew their support for the Court and its efforts to ensure justice for the crimes committed in Sierra Leone.
Echoing that sentiment, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said that the Special Court had joined other international tribunals in offering hope to future generations -- a hope that, in the affairs of men and women of all nations, the rule of law might prevail and that those whose deeds offended the conscience of mankind would not go unpunished.
On the opening day of the Charles Taylor trial, the Secretary-General had encouraged all Member States to continue in their support and contributions to the Special Court, she said. Today, the Special Court had specifically sought the international community’s financial support. The Court also required the cooperation of Member States with the enforcement of sentences, the relocation of witnesses and the subsequent residual and legacy issues that would naturally arise from its activities.
“I strongly reiterate these requests,” she said. It was imperative that the international community continued to generously support the Special Court, ensuring that it had both the human and financial resources to conclude its mandate. The Court was an important milestone in the fight against impunity, marking the considerable achievement of those who had worked selflessly to ensure a lasting legacy of justice and the rule of law, of which the Sierra Leonean people, Africa and the international community at large could be proud.
Sierra Leone’s representative, Allieu Ibrahim Kanu, said the Special Court had been characterized by milestones and challenges. But, the one challenge it had always faced, and one that it continued to face, was a challenge it could not overcome alone. The international community must give the Special Court the financial stability it needed to see trials through to the very end of the appeals process, to support the legacy work of the Court and to ensure its ability to engage the people of Sierra Leone, particularly now that an important part of its work was taking place so far away from home.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Congo, France, Peru, China, Qatar, Slovakia, South Africa, Panama, Russian Federation, Italy, Ghana, Indonesia, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Nigeria and Germany (on behalf of the European Union).
The meeting began at 3:20 p.m. and ended at 5:35 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Sierra Leone.
GEORGE GELAGA KING, President, Special Court for Sierra Leone, briefing the Council on the Court’s achievements and challenges, said it was a crucial stage in the life of the Special Court. While the Court was undertaking an unprecedented level of judicial activity, it was already beginning to wind down its overall operations in Freetown.
Updating the Council on the status of legal proceedings at the Special Court, he noted that four trials of nine individuals were currently before the Court. Three were being held in Freetown and one, the trial of Charles Taylor, ex-President of Liberia, was being held in The Hague. Before Trial Chamber I were trials of alleged members of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The CDF trial had concluded, and a judgement was expected in July. In the RUF trial, the defence was currently presenting its case. Before Trial Chamber II were the trials of alleged members of the Armed forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and Charles Taylor. In the AFRC trial, a judgement was expected on 20 June. Mr. Taylor’s trial had opened on Monday, 4 June, in The Hague.
According to the updated completion strategy, the Special Court would conclude all judicial activity in Freetown and The Hague by the end of 2009. Two of the trials being conducted in Freetown -- the AFRC and CDF trials -- were now concluded and judgements would be delivered in the coming weeks. A third trial, the RUF trial, was scheduled to conclude by December 2007, and a judgement was expected by June 2008. Once a judgement had been delivered in the RUF trial, Trial Chamber I would have concluded its assignments and become functus officio.
Regarding Mr. Taylor’s trial, the projection was that trial proceedings would last until November 2008 and that a judgement on the merits and, if applicable, on sentencing, would be issued in June 2009. Possible appeals might start in Freetown as of July 2008. Any appeals proceedings were expected to last approximately six months for each case and be concluded in the ARFC, CDF and RUF cases by December 2008. It was expected that the Appeals Chamber would complete a possible appeal in the Taylor case by December 2009.
One indictee, Johnny Paul Koroma, was still at large, he added. If apprehended between now and the December 2009 completion date, the Special Court’s completion strategy and budget would have to be revisited. While it was never possible to fully predict the duration of legal proceedings, the Special Court was committed to achieving the milestones set forth in the completion strategy and to reviewing ways to increase efficiency.
Regarding the Special Court’s impact, he said the Court’s importance went beyond the completion of its legal proceedings. As the Special Court’s President, and as a Sierra Leonean, it was his firm belief that the Court’s establishment had represented a major contribution to long-term peace and security in Sierra Leone and the region. The Court had contributed greatly to the efforts being made in Sierra Leone to resurrect the rule of law and to end impunity.
He noted that the Special Court had made its trials and other activities a part of Sierra Leone’s national discourse and heritage. The Court’s Outreach Section, through radio programmes, video screenings, town hall meetings and training sessions, had had great success in engaging all sectors of Sierra Leone society. The Outreach Section was now taking strides to ensure that, although Mr. Taylor’s trial was taking place in The Hague, the whole of the trial process would be brought to everyone in Sierra Leone and be made accessible throughout the West African region, particularly in Liberia.
“It should come as no surprise that, as the Court approaches the end of its mandate, legacy issues are one of its top most priorities,” he said. The Court was continuing to transfer expertise to Sierra Leoneans through a number of programmes, including training on courtroom interpretation, witness protection and detention standards. The Special Court was also exploring ways to ensure that its buildings, archives and records would be preserved for Sierra Leone’s children’s children. Potential use of the Court’s physical site after completion of its mandate was being explored in conjunction with Sierra Leone’s Government.
Describing the challenges facing the Special Court, he said the Court had benefited on numerous occasions from the Security Council’s support. He expressed gratitude for the Council’s adoption of resolution 1688 (2006), which noted his intention to authorize Trial Chamber II to exercise its functions away from the Court’s seat and requested all States to cooperate in the transfer of Charles Taylor to the Netherlands; and the adoption of resolution 1626 (2005), which extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to include the protection of the Court’s premises by a contingent of Mongolian troops. To complete its mandate, the Special Court still required the support of the Council and all Member States.
The Special Court required secure funding, he said. It had recently finalized a completion budget that outlined its financial requirements from 1 July to 31 December 2007. The total budget amount was some $89 million, and available funds would be exhausted by November 2007. “This is of grave and imminent concern,” he said, stressing that it was imperative to ensure adequate financial support if the Special Court was to adhere to its completion strategy.
He said the Court sought the international community’s cooperation in negotiating and concluding additional agreements for the enforcement of potential sentences and the relocation of witnesses. Sufficient agreements must be in place as soon as possible, to avoid delays in the completion of the Court’s work. He encouraged States to support the Court’s legacy projects and consideration of relevant residual issues.
STEPHEN RAPP, Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, said that Charles Taylor’s trial, which had begun this past Monday in The Hague, was a “watershed for international justice” and that the Security Council deserved tremendous credit for helping to make that happen. He recalled that Council resolution 1638 (2005) had been critical to the effort to apprehend, detain and transfer Mr. Taylor to the Special Court, and had made possible the former Liberian leader’s turnover to the Special Court after his arrest in 2006 while attempting to cross the border from Nigeria into Cameroon. In June 2006, the Council had adopted resolution 1688, which requested that all States cooperate to effect Taylor’s transfer to The Hague for the trial.
He went on to say that the Office of the Prosecutor had concentrated its investigations and prosecutions on a limited number of individuals alleged to have been in a position of responsibility and/or command and had a major role not only in carrying out crimes, but also in planning and implementing the campaign of terror that had engulfed Sierra Leone for nearly 10 years. His Office had issued 13 indictments, and 11 individuals had been apprehended and transferred into the Court’s custody. Two of them, Foday Sankoh and Hinga Norman, had died of natural causes while in detention, one had been killed in Liberia before arrest, and the whereabouts of another remained unknown. Nine individuals were currently before the Court as accused in four trials, he added.
The prosecution had concluded the presentation of evidence in the trials of Allieu Kondewa and Moinina Fofana of CDF, and Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu of AFRC by the end of 2006. With the trial phases of those cases complete, the Prosecutor’s Office was awaiting judgements and devoting its efforts to preparing for possible appeals. The prosecution had concluded its case in the trial of three other individuals, including Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao of RUF. The defence had begun presenting its witnesses on 3 May and it was anticipated that the trial would be concluded by early 2008.
He said that the Prosecutor’s Office had also been conducting investigations in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in relation to its case against Mr. Taylor, who had been indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law by the Court in 2003. After concern had been expressed by regional leaders, the President of the Court had formally requested that the case be moved to The Hague. The trial had opened last Monday and, in his opening statement, the Prosecutor had made it clear that his Office would work to ensure that the proceedings adhered to the principles of fairness and due process.
In the months to come, he said that the Prosecution would be calling witnesses and offering documentary evidence that in its evaluation would provide strong and compelling proof of Taylor’s culpability in planning, instigating, ordering, aiding and abetting the crimes charged in the original indictment. Those included, among others, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 into armed forces or using them to participate in hostilities. He said that the Special Court had been the first international tribunal to charge and try individuals for that particular crime as a violation of international humanitarian law. Moreover, it had been the first international tribunal to charge “forced marriage” as a crime against humanity. The judgements as to those crimes that were expected in about 12 days in the AFRC case would be an historic first.
He told the Council that those trials were evidence of the international community’s commitment to ensure accountability for crimes as heinous and widespread as those committed in Sierra Leone. “They make a clear statement that crimes such as mutilations -- the chopping off of arms and legs -- sexual enslavement of women and girls and the use of child soldiers cannot go unpunished,” he declared. The historic trial of Charles Taylor showed that, after the mayhem and terror that had been rained upon Sierra Leone and its people, there were those in the world who were ready to uphold the law and decide that, no matter how high the position of the person responsible, there would be a day of justice.
Stressing that the Court’s completion plan would require continued support from all Member States, he noted that, in the course of the CDF, AFRC and RUF trials, the prosecution had presented some 220 witnesses. Overall, 354 had been heard in the Chambers to date. In the Taylor case, the prosecution expected to call some 139 witnesses, many appearing at great risk to their own safety and that of their families. The Court had an obligation to protect them and to relocate high-profile and vulnerable witnesses. The Court had signed agreements for the relocation of witnesses with three countries and had entered into ad hoc arrangements with two more. Additional agreements were needed to ensure that all witnesses of the Special Court received the protection they deserved. All the persons appearing before the Court had declared themselves indigent, and the Court’s Registry needed the capacity to ascertain the validity of those claims. The investigations required extensive cooperation by Member States to track, freeze and access possible assets.
“Finally, the Special Court needs funding,” he said, stressing that the tribunal had demonstrated itself to be a transparent and cost effective operation. It had also presented Member States with a completion budget, but the Court’s funds would, nevertheless, be exhausted by the end of October 2007. Additional funds in the amount of $60 million would be needed to finance its operations until the completion of its mandate. The challenges facing the Court were serious, he said, encouraging all Member States to renew their support for the Court and its efforts to ensure justice for the crimes committed in Sierra Leone.
He concluded his briefing by recalling his opening statement in the Charles Taylor trial: “The people of Sierra Leone have a saying: ‘No matter how long the night, light will come again.’ For years, the accused’s crimes have remained in the dark. Today, we start to shed light on his responsibility for the suffering of the people of Sierra Leone.” He urged a continuation of the work to help the people of Sierra Leone look forward to a future of light and hope.
ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said it gave her great pleasure to be in the Council today as a witness to the Special Court’s significant achievements. It had only been five years ago that an 11-year conflict, characterised by indescribable brutality and systematic use of mutilation, abduction, sexual violence and the murder of civilians, had come to an end in Sierra Leone. As the first of its kind, the Special Court had been established on the basis of an agreement between the United Nations and a Member State, Sierra Leone, at the Council’s request and that of Sierra Leone’s Government. That new hybrid model of international justice sat on the territory were the crimes had been committed and, therefore, had the unique advantage of benefiting from both international and Sierra Leonean personnel.
She said that, while the Court had faced numerous difficulties and challenges since its establishment, it was clear that tremendous efforts had been made by both dedicated staff and the people of Sierra Leone to prosecute those who bore the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996.
Like the ad hoc tribunals currently in existence, the Special Court prosecuted war crimes and crimes against humanity, she said. Uniquely, however, the Court had also prosecuted all its indictees for the enlisting of children under the age of 15 to participate in hostilities. Notably, building on the jurisprudence of the Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Special Court had confronted the tradition of impunity for gender-based crimes, prosecuting such offences as forced marriage, recognizing the unique nature of the sexual crimes perpetrated primarily against women and girl children during the conflict. For the first time, sexual slavery as a crime against humanity was being expressly prosecuted under international law.
Today, the Special Court had demonstrated how it had discharged the heavy responsibility it had assumed in 2002 to ensure that perpetrators of crimes were brought to justice, she said. In so doing, the Court had contributed to the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in Sierra Leone. One of the Court’s greatest accomplishments was its Outreach Unit. It was truly remarkable how that Unit had enlisted the support of the general public in Sierra Leone and the neighbouring region. It had effectively disseminated information about the trials at a grass-roots level, providing accessible information on the application of the basic values of the rule of law in the restoration of peace.
She said that the Special Court had joined other international tribunals in offering hope to future generation -- a hope that, in the affairs of men and women of all nations, the rule of law might prevail and that those whose deeds offended the conscience of mankind would not go unpunished. On the opening day of the Charles Taylor trial, the Secretary-General had encouraged all Member States to continue in their support and contributions to the Special Court. Today, the Special Court had specifically sought the assistance of the international community with financial support. The Court also required the cooperation of Member States with the enforcement of sentences, the relocation of witnesses, and the subsequent residual and legacy issues that would naturally arise from its activities.
“I strongly reiterate these requests”, she said. It was imperative that the international community continued to generously support the Special Court, ensuring that it had both the human and financial resources to conclude its mandate. The Court was an important milestone in the fight against humanity, marking the considerable achievement of those who had worked selflessly to ensure a lasting legacy of justice and of the rule of law, of which the Sierra Leonean people, Africa and the international community at large could be proud.
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said that, less than eight years ago, military intervention had been necessary to prevent the total collapse of Sierra Leone, which had been in the grips of civil war. The progress that had been made since had been due to the perseverance of the people of the country, the Security Council and others. Even with that progress, Sierra Leone was still fragile, and the upcoming elections, the first since the drawdown of the United Nations peacekeeping Mission there, would be historic. It was also historic that the Special Court’s top officials had briefed the Council within days of the opening of its trial against Charles Taylor. Today’s meeting allowed the Court’s officials, as well as the Council members, to tell the world that there would be no tolerance for impunity.
She pledged her country’s continued support for the Court, and reiterated Mr. King’s call for enhanced support from the international community as the Court headed towards the completion of its work. She also called on the Court and its officials to complete its work on time and to put into effect measures that might preserve and build on its legacy, and enable it to serve as a model for the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
JACKIE WOLCOTT SANDERS ( United States) said the United Nations and the international community continued to attach importance to the successful completion of the Special Court’s work in order to bring a sense of justice to the innocent victims of the terrible crimes and atrocities that had been perpetrated in Sierra Leone. Her country had been a strong supporter of the Court since its inception, and the successful completion of the Court’s work remained one of its top priorities. The efforts of the Court’s dedicated men and women, a large number of whom were Sierra Leonean, had contributed to a number of important precedents, the most notable of which had been the indictment of Charles Taylor.
She said that the Special Court also represented the first test of a new model of international justice -- an independent, international court of mixed jurisdiction and composition seated in the country where the crimes had been committed. The future of that new model would be an important aspect of the Court’s legacy. As the efficient and timely completion of the Court’s work would serve as testimony to the efficacy of the model, she urged the Court’s leadership to do everything in its power to address the inefficiencies at the Court and to avoid delays. Her country, which had contributed $35 million to support the Court and would make additional contributions, appealed to all Governments to help guarantee that justice would be served, that impunity would not be tolerated and that peace and stability could be sustained in Sierra Leone and in the region.
LAZARE MAKAYAT-SAFOUESSE ( Congo) said today’s debate gave his country the opportunity to renew its ongoing commitment to the fight against impunity. Justice was at the heart of the objectives of reconciliation, reconstruction and development. That was the meaning and importance of the Court’s work. In organizing the trial of Charles Taylor, the Court was serving the objectives of peace and security. The exercise of international criminal justice would reaffirm that, from now on, the perpetrators of crimes would sooner or later answer for their acts. Congo would give the Court all the necessary cooperation to fulfil its mandate.
In the final analysis, aside from the implementation of its completion strategy, he said that the Court could provide a useful legacy for the gradual evolution of international criminal justice.
OLIVIER LACROIX ( France) said that the Special Court was an essential tool for justice and reconciliation and, with the arrest of Charles Taylor and the commencement of the trial against him, the Court was sending a message of hope to the victims of crimes and impunity. It was also a warning to others. The former highest official standing trial for atrocities he had planned or instigated was historic, and the Council should continue to support the Court’s work. While the costs of transporting Mr. Taylor to The Hague had had an impact on the Court’s budget, France believed that such costs were understandable. The Court had been a model for other such tribunals, especially the special tribunal for Lebanon, which the Council had just approved last week. France fully supported efforts by the Special Court to combat impunity and to carry out justice.
YELLA ZANELLI ( Peru) said her country firmly supported the fight against impunity. For that reason, Peru appreciated today’s opportunity to receive information on the Court’s activities. With two trials now concluded and the recent beginning of the Charles Taylor trial, the Court had shown that it was making progress in bringing to justice those with the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity, in support of the fight against impunity, as well as support for reconciliation and the restoration of peace. The beginning of the Taylor trial marked an important milestone. The fact that he was now being brought to justice showed that no one was above the law. The fact that the trial was being carried out in The Hague showed how the young institution could fight against impunity, and only confirmed the longing of the international community to create a permanent institution.
She said the Court’s innovative outreach programme had proved the crucial need for the Court to be accessible; the local population needed to see that justice was being served. That was particularly relevant in the case of Mr. Taylor, and she praised the work being done by the Court in that area. On the completion strategy, the Court’s residual activities and legacy were also important. In that regard, she stressed the need to establish the capabilities of the local justice system to try those responsible for crimes committed outside the Court’s mandate. Carrying out the Court’s mandate required resources and cooperation, and she encouraged the international community’s continued support in that regard.
CHEN PREIJIE ( China) said that her delegation would continue to support the work of the Special Court. China was pleased to learn that the Court was making steady progress towards wrapping up its work, and had begun to address other issues, such as capacity-building in local justice systems. She hoped that the Court would continue to work actively to attain the goals it had set, so that it might complete its work on time. Regarding regional cooperation, China called on all States to cooperate with the Court, particularly in areas such as executing arrest warrants and other matters pertaining to the administration of justice.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said that beginning the hearings for Charles Taylor was a critical stage in the work of the Special Court, and reaching that stage had fulfilled the aspirations of the people of the country to achieve justice and embark on the path towards peacebuilding. Since the May 2005 briefing by the former President of the Special Court, Justice Emmanuel Ayola, the Court had made concrete achievements in the implementation of its mandate under Security Council resolution 1315 (2000) and the 2002 agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone. It had concluded the trial of members of CDF and AFRC, while the trial of the members of RUF would be concluded soon.
He noted that the Court would continue to carry out its work, including the appeal stage, up to the latter part of 2009. There was a need for the Court to conclude its work as soon as possible, given that some trials had gone beyond their deadlines. However, a balance should be struck between compliance with timeframes and the full, efficient and satisfactory implementation of the Court’s mandate, while guaranteeing the rights of the accused to fair trials. All States should provide the necessary financial contributions to the Court, and he commended parties that had already done so. He also praised the Court for committing itself to contributing to Sierra Leone’s system of justice. He regretted the fact that Charles Taylor’s trial had not taken place on African soil -- due to the fact that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was busy developing its own termination strategy, and that space within African premises were lacking -- and stressed the importance of giving people from the subregion the means to follow the proceedings, including through closed circuit television.
IGOR BARTHO (Slovakia), welcoming the commencement of the Charles Taylor trial, said that, while that trial was taking place in The Hague, it was and would remain a trial of the Special Court. In that context, Slovakia supported measures aimed at ensuring that proceedings were accessible to West Africans, including by facilitating the attendance of journalists and civil society representatives from Liberia and Sierra Leone at the proceedings in The Hague, preparing video and audio summaries of Mr. Taylor’s trial for dissemination throughout Sierra Leone and making broadcasts of the trial available at the Court’s premises in Freetown.
He also praised the innovative work of the Court’s Outreach Unit, noting that it could set a good example for the work of other tribunals.
BONGIWE QWABE ( South Africa) noted the significant progress made in the trials before the Special Court -- those of CDF, RUF and AFRC. The conclusion of the AFRC and CDF trials were welcome and boded well for the implementation of the completion strategy in 2009. The prosecution of those responsible for violating international humanitarian law and the law of Sierra Leone would discourage others from committing human rights violations in the future.
She said that a hallmark of the Court lay in its ability to set precedents in international humanitarian law. Regarding aspects of national ownership of the Court, South Africa was particularly encouraged by the large number of Sierra Leoneans employed by the Court. Also encouraging was the Court’s efforts in the dissemination of information and in ensuring -- through the Legacy Project -- that the Court’s work resonated in Sierra Leone long after the completion of its work. Continued assistance by the international community, however, remained critical. The projected budget for the next three years totalled $90 million, and international donors were urged to continue their support. Also, South Africa called on States to cooperate, support and rally behind the appeal by Mr. King for concluding agreements for enforcement of sentences, relocation of witnesses, identifying assets of convicted offenders and apprehending Johnny Paul Koroma.
The holding of free and fair elections on 11 August 2007 would contribute to a peaceful and stable Sierra Leone, and the Special Court’s functions were integral to the creation of a stable political and security environment, she said. South Africa would continue to support Sierra Leone, both bilaterally and through the Peacebuilding Commission.
ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) acknowledged the Court’s important work in establishing the rule of law in the country and the subregion. The Court had been the first to deal with various types of crime under international law, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. Its overall success was an important example to be followed in Africa, as well as in other regions. In the period leading up to December 2009, it would be important for the Court to guarantee that its work was carried out in accordance with the highest standards of international law. It was also crucial that the international community continue to provide the Court with the necessary resources.
She said that a trial was similar to an election, in that, after the verdict, much work remained to be done. It would be interesting to know more about projections for the period after 2009, including the issues of post-appeal trials, the proper treatment of victims and the conservation of documents.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN ( Russian Federation) said the Special Court was an important component in the global fight against impunity, as well as an essential element of the overall effort to ensure peace and security in the West African region. While the Court’s work was to be commended, it was, nevertheless, worth recalling that much time had passed between the Council’s decision to cooperate in the establishment of the Court and the commencement of the trial against Charles Taylor, the main accused. Moreover, once the case had opened earlier this week, the proceedings had been suspended almost immediately and were now only set to restart on 26 June. He wondered if the Court’s top authorities might give Council members some background on the reason for that suspension and the delay in restarting the proceedings. He also asked if the delay would have any effect on the Special Court’s overall completion strategy.
ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said that his delegation counted itself among those who supported the work of the Special Court and its crucial role in ensuring peace and security in the region. While welcoming the commencement of the trial against Charles Taylor in The Hague, he urged the Court’s officials not to lose sight of the work that remained to be done at its Freetown home base. Along with wrapping up its work in accordance with its Council-mandated completion strategy, the Special Court must also ensure that the people of Sierra Leone saw it as a friendly institution, even after the completion of its work. He, thus, encouraged the Court to continue efforts to preserve its legacy for future generations. He praised the Special Court’s pioneering work in many areas of international justice, emphasizing the historic charges levelled against the various accused, chiefly citing forced marriage as a crime against humanity.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) recognized the Court’s invaluable role in the prosecution of the serious crimes committed in the civil wars since 1996. Justice and closure for the victims of war crimes and other atrocities provided a basis for peace, reconciliation and stability. It also provided the standard for the administration of transitional justice in the West African subregion. The Court’s completion strategy was, therefore, of great importance. Without the conclusion of the most serious cases, the Court’s mandate would not be fully discharged. In that regard, he viewed the commencement of proceedings against Charles Taylor in The Hague as a significant development in the fight against impunity. Hopefully, other perpetrators of heinous crimes would also be brought to justice.
He noted that the completion strategy was on track with the first two milestones achieved, namely the completion of hearings in the CDC and AFRC cases. He welcomed progress made in amending the rules of procedure and evidence, as, without efficiency in the proceedings, the attainment of the stated objectives and milestones might be compromised. The Court’s outreach programme was also to be commended. In the fight against impunity and in the quest for justice for the most serious crimes, it was important that the Court’s proceedings in particular, and justice in general, not be seen as a remote and distant process without relevance to the lives of the citizens. Thus, “justice must be brought to the people”, he urged. Creating a sense of participation for the victims would bring an element of ownership and understanding of the process. He called on the international community to fully support the Court by providing it with adequate resources.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) welcomed the Special Court’s steady progress towards the fulfilment of its mandate and completion strategy. The perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as other serious crimes, must be brought to justice. In that regard, he welcomed the start of the Charles Taylor trial, as it augured well for the strengthening of the rule of law and provided confidence for the people of West Africa and beyond that there was no impunity for crime, no matter how powerful the perpetrator. He hoped the trial would be conducted fairly and in accordance with international standards with respect to the presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise.
He said that, despite the Government’s efforts, much more needed to be done to heal the wounds of the people and consolidate peace. “It is hard to console the people of Sierra Leone who were battered by the actions of Charles Taylor for six horrendous years,” he said. He was hopeful, however, that the trial would advance national reconciliation and further the sense of accountability among the public. At the same time, it was important for the Council to focus on the big picture in the country. While the Government had made progress in re-establishing the judiciary, the lack of access to formal justice for the majority of the population, along with severe capacity constraint in the associated institutions, continued to pose serious challenges to peace and security. In that regard, the security sector needed to be strengthened and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission implemented.
With most institutions ravaged by the 10-year civil war, there was only so much that the Government could do with its present scarce resources and inadequate infrastructure, he said. The international community should step up its support to Sierra Leone’s Government, not only in assisting it in the conduct of the upcoming elections, but also to help it expand its capacities across the various sectors for the long-term recovery.
Council President JOHAN VERBEKE (Belgium), speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the start of the Charles Taylor trial, which was clear proof that there was no impunity for persons who carried out the most serious crimes, regardless of their rank. Peace and impunity were in no way compatible. That was the spirit underlying the Court’s creation. One of the Court’s important contributions was that it had been able to issue the first sentencing for recruitment of child soldiers, sending a clear signal throughout the world regarding the mingling of children and armed conflict. The conflict in Sierra Leone had featured extreme brutality, of which children and women had been the chief victims. The victims’ perception that justice had been served was crucial. In that regard, he stressed the outstanding work in the area of outreach and communication developed in the context of the Charles Taylor trial.
He noted with satisfaction that the Court was expected to conclude its work by 2009. December 2009 was not far off, however. It was necessary, therefore, to reflect before then on the Court’s residual functions, including the issues of witness protection and archives. In that regard, it would be useful to seek possible synergies with other jurisdictions involved in the debate, in particular the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
ALLIEU IBRAHIM KANU ( Sierra Leone) said it had been five years since the Court’s establishment and seven since Sierra Leone’s President had requested the assistance of the United Nations and the international community to help the country answer the people’s cries for justice. His Government had never wavered in its support for the Special Court, as it believed that justice was necessary for Sierra Leone to address and overcome its past, and again become one of West Africa’s brightest jewels. That support had been grounded in the equally strong belief that, in order to do its work, the Special Court must be independent, impartial and fair. While the last two matters were for history to judge, from his perspective, the Court’s independence had been a critical factor in its ability to do its work and to reach the people of Sierra Leone.
“This has not come about by chance”, he said, noting that, from the beginning, the people of Sierra Leone had been at the forefront of those who had called for the Court’s establishment. That was why the Court was based in Freetown. It was also why the Court was called upon to implement a robust outreach programme that had grown from “strength to strength” under the leadership of the Court’s outreach coordinator. That was also why, in answer to the call of ordinary Sierra Leoneans, the Court had been looking at its legacy and what added benefits it could bring beyond its judicial work.
The Special Court’s mere presence, with its mandate to identify those who bore the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed in Sierra Leone, and to apply the rules to them equally, had been a catalyst for the establishment of rule and order in the country, he said. The Special Court had gone a step further, however, by establishing a working group on legacy to strengthen its impact on the rule of law and play an active role in promoting initiatives to reach the same goal. At the end of 2006, for example, as a part of its legacy work, the Special Court had been instrumental in holding a national consultative conference on implementing legislation for the Rome Statute. Draft legislation had now been prepared and was expected to become part of Sierra Leone’s laws early next year. “This is a real and tangible example of the legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which will serve the people and indeed the world for decades to come,” he said.
The Special Court had begun its work in mid 2002, just a few months after the last presidential and parliamentary elections in his country, he noted. As Sierra Leone’s President had said on the occasion of the country’s forty-sixth anniversary of independence, earlier this year, Sierra Leone had come a long way, remaining united in the face of adversity. For all its strength and determination that the country never fall back into the days of despair, it had not achieved sustainable peace by working alone. Even before the Special Court had been established, its very notion had been an important factor in the cessation of hostilities.
The Special Court’s life had been characterized by milestones and challenges, he said. Its latest milestone, just a few days ago, had been the commencement of the trial of a former Head of State, the first African Head of State to be brought to trial for serious violations of international humanitarian law. His antics had threatened not only his own country, but also neighbouring countries, including Sierra Leone. That milestone brought its own challenges, as the trial was taking place, not in Freetown, but in The Hague. One challenge was ensuring that the people of Sierra Leone had access to trials being conducted on their behalf. Another was ensuring a trial’s independence and the perception of its independence, when it was taking place on the premises of the International Criminal Court. He was confident that the Special Court would rise to those challenges, as it had risen to other challenges in the past.
However, the one challenge it had always faced, and one that it continued to face, was a challenge that the Special Court could not overcome alone, he said, adding that “the promises made just seven years ago must be honoured”. The international community, in particular the States that made up the international community, must give the Special Court the financial stability it needed to see trials through to the very end of the appeals process, to support the legacy work of the Court and to ensure its ability to engage the people of Sierra Leone, particularly now that an important part of its work was taking place so far away from home. No one State or group of States could mobilize resources all by themselves. His delegation had taken the initiative to solicit the financial support from African countries and Member States of the Organization of Islamic Conference.
HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN (Canada) said that, in a recent survey of 10,000 Sierra Leoneans from across the country, 91 per cent had said they either agreed or strongly agreed that the Special Court had contributed to building peace in Sierra Leone; and 88 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that setting up the Court had been the most appropriate option for addressing the crimes committed during the war. That was a significant vote of confidence in the Court. The Court had been funded on the basis of voluntary contributions and built, literally, from the ground up only a few years ago, operating in a country devastated by civil war. Despite that enormous accomplishment, however, significant challenges remained.
Financing continued to be the most critical issue, he continued. The Special Court had struggled throughout its history, because it was often unsure from one month to the next whether there would be money in the bank. The resulting financial uncertainty had profoundly affected every aspect of its operations. The Management Committee -- chaired by Canada -- had taken steps to address the issue. Last month, a three-year completion budget had been adopted that would take the Court to the end of its work in late 2009. That gave the Court a clear financial plan that should allow it to effectively implement its completion strategy. But that would happen only if donors stepped forward with further contributions. More than 40 countries had contributed to the Court, and he thanked them. He also urged those countries that could contribute more, to do so.
Among the Court’s other challenges, he mentioned enforcement of sentences, witness protection and residual issues. So far, only three States had agreed to enforce the sentences of individuals who might be convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment; and only a few States had offered to assist certain vulnerable witnesses who must be resettled in third countries for their protection. Both of those needs were critical. States could make a significant non-cash contribution to the work of the Court by agreeing to enforce sentences or by accepting witnesses for resettlement. Winding down of the Court’s work would also raise a number of issues. For example, archives must be made accessible to the public, but sensitive information, such as the names of protected witnesses, would need to be kept confidential. Sentences might need to be reviewed several years down the road, and protected witnesses would continue to need protection.
The Special Court would be the first of the tribunals to face those and other difficult residual issues, he added. Indeed, it had registered several “firsts”. It was the first international criminal tribunal to be funded by voluntary contributions and the first in modern times to be located in the country where the crimes were alleged to have been committed. It was also the first to have established an office of the principal defender, and it would be the first to embark on the complicated exercise of running trials simultaneously on two continents. “Many of us take pride in the Court’s ‘firsts’ and its accomplishments, but let me not leave the impression that this has been easy,” he said. The financial pressures on the Court were significant. The personal and professional commitment demanded of, and given by, every single person working at the Court were enormous, and the stakes, for Sierra Leone, for the region and for international criminal justice, were high. The Special Court was doing its part to contribute to the restoration of the rule of law and to the end of impunity in Sierra Leone. It was up to the international community to continue to do its part.
ARJAN HAMBURGER ( Netherlands) said the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone had made a significant contribution to the fight against impunity. The trial of Charles Taylor, which had started this week, made clear that even Heads of State would be brought to account if they committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. His country had been a committed supporter of the Special Court from its inception, was one of its major donors, a dedicated member of the Management Committee and the host State for the Charles Taylor trial. He commended the Court for its efforts to make the proceedings against Charles Taylor accessible for the people of Sierra Leone and West Africa. His country would assist the Court in those endeavours, wherever possible.
He said the Special Court had made substantial progress over the past year. It was essential that the completion strategy was being adhered to. Without adequate financial resources, however, the Court could not complete its important work. The Netherlands, therefore, called upon all countries present to ensure sufficient funding. He emphasized that the work of the Special Court did not completely end in 2009. Important residual functions would continue to exist well beyond that date. The legacy of the institutions also needed to be assured for the public in general and the people of Sierra Leone in particular.
AMINU B. WALI ( Nigeria) said the timing of the present debate was apt, given the commencement of Charles Taylor’s trial and the dire need to strengthen the capacity of, and provision of resources to, the Special Court for Sierra Leone to deal with the situation. The Special Court brought justice to the victims of human rights abuses, sent a clear message that no one was above the law and seemed to indicate a collective rejection of impunity by the international community. Indeed, Nigeria appreciated the decisions reached by the Special Court so far, which demonstrated its important role in Sierra Leone’s peace process. The Court had shown that the political immunity of a Head of State could not shield an individual from prosecution in cases of human rights violations and crimes against humanity. In addition, the Court had shown that it was averse to the recruitment of child soldiers and had declared forced marriage a crime against humanity and a violation of customary law. Nigeria was happy to note that judgement on heinous crimes committed in Sierra Leone would soon be delivered.
He went on to welcome the voluntary contributions of some Member States in support of the Special Court, and encouraged those that had not yet done so to get involved. But, since voluntary contributions had proven inadequate to meet the needs of the Court, Nigeria also called on the need for the international community to urgently explore other measures to enhance the Court’s funding, so as to ensure a reliable flow of resources to support Court processes, victims’ participation in Court proceedings and stem delays and suspensions of Court activities. That, in turn, would strengthen the Court’s position in its ability to handle issues arising from final judgements, including the monitoring of detainees, relocations and protection of prime witnesses, and enforcement of sentences. The fight against impunity and tyranny perpetrated in Sierra Leone needed to be carried to its logical conclusion through the Special Court, and the international community must respond to its funding requirements.
THOMAS MATUSSEK ( Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Special Court was making an invaluable contribution to the restoration of peace and stability in Sierra Leone. Through its work, those most responsible for serious crimes during the country’s brutal civil war were being held accountable for their deeds. The most prominent case on the Court’s agenda -- the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor -- had commenced this very week in The Hague. Other cases were well under way in Freetown and, on the whole, it seemed that the goals of the completion strategy could be met. The Court had also contributed to the development of international criminal law by having, for example, instituted landmark proceedings to investigate the use of child soldiers and forced marriage. It had also taken important decisions on criminal procedure and developed a whole body of rules and regulations on how to get the institution, as such, up and running. All of that deserved careful study and analysis when considering the further development of international criminal law. He called on the Court and all concerned to make every effort to preserve and render accessible that wealth of practical legal experience.
Covering the entire completion period from 2007 to 2009, the Court’s new budget sent a message that the Court was, indeed, “on track” and had taken all necessary measures to achieve its goals within the established time frame, he continued. It made equally clear, however, that, for the Court to complete its work, ongoing support from Member States was needed. Since the start of proceedings in 2002, European Union member States had provided more than 56 per cent of the Court’s entire expenditures. In addition, several of the Court’s projects had been funded by the European Community. The Union would not fail to continue its support for the Court’s work.
Turning to important “lessons” of interest for the Security Council and the wider United Nations Members when they looked at other situations, he said that the Court, through its unprecedented outreach programme and efforts to explain its work to the people in Sierra Leone and beyond, had greatly bolstered its acceptance. Current efforts to make the proceedings against Charles Taylor as transparent as possible for the people of Sierra Leone would certainly do the same. It was essential that the people in the region be accurately informed about and understand the serious changes brought against him, and the way in which the proceedings would be carried forward. It was also important that the Court had hired as many local staff as possible. Today, half of its staff were Sierra Leonean nationals. That, again, had helped to win trust and confidence in the region.
The Special Court had given a strong boost to what former Secretary-General Kofi Annan had called “the culture of the rule of law”, he continued. Its work signalled that, in today’s world, serious crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes would no longer go unpunished. Not even the highest officials could count on impunity for their deeds, because the international community would react. In keeping with the principles of the rule of law, it would react through legal means -- criminal proceedings that would bring perpetrators to justice, swiftly and effectively, and strictly in accordance with all international standards. That message would also give a strong boost to the growing international support for the International Criminal Court.
He added that “completion” was a tempting term, but it was somehow misleading. Even if all actual proceedings were completed and the cases tried, that was not the end of the story. The judgements would have to be enforced, those convicted would need to serve their sentence and the protection of witnesses might be needed for an extended period. Long after the completion date, new facts could become known, necessitating certain decisions to be taken. The courts had to be kept intact and accessible. For those reasons, the international community had to address what was commonly referred to as “residual issues” as a matter of urgency, just as in the cases of the Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia Tribunals.
Wrapping up the discussion, Special Court President KING said that he had been very much encouraged by the participation of Member States in the debate. He believed their message was that the Special Court would be supported as it headed into the final phase of is work.
Prosecutor RAPP also gave his profound thanks for the support that had been shown to the Special Court. Responding to some comments, he said that it was not uncommon for accused individuals to absent themselves from the opening of trials. The practice of the Court, or any international tribunal, was not to force the presence of the accused, but to communicate regularly with the accused and the defence team to ensure a fair and just proceeding. He said that the Court had twice before provided additional time for Mr. Taylor’s defence team to make preparations. He added that Mr. Taylor had, as had others before the Special Court in this case, pleaded indigence, and the Court had provided him with access to counsel and co-counsel, as well as other court offices, material and staff both in The Hague and in Freetown. Mr. Taylor also had access to investigators provided by the Special Court. Overall, he believed that, among other issues, those regarding the replacement of a member of Taylor’s defence team would be resolved in good faith.
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* The 5688th and 5689th Meetings were closed.