|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6844th Meeting (AM)
Security Council, in Statement, Strongly Commends Special Court for Sierra Leone,
Urges Robust Financial Support as Historic Body Moves into Final Stages of Work
Top Officials Highlight Court’s Long Record of Unprecedented ‘Firsts’;
Deputy Foreign Minister Warns Lack of Resources Could ‘Choke’ Completion Strategy
The Security Council today commended the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s important contribution to international criminal justice, as well as its role in strengthening stability in West Africa and “bringing an end to impunity”, and also hailed the completion of trial proceedings against former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Culminating a meeting that featured presentations from the Special Court’s top officials and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, Council President Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala) read out a statement approved by the 15-member body acknowledging the Court’s progress towards completion of its work and recognizing the need to address residual matters after its closure, including the supervision of the enforcement of sentences for convicted persons, the protection of witnesses and the preservation of archives.
It urged the international community to continue to support the Special Court as it moved into its final stage of work, and emphasized the vital need for further pledges of voluntary contributions to allow the completion of its mandate in a timely manner. The Council also called on Member States to contribute generously towards implementation of the agreement on establishing the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Addressing the Council for the first time, Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ebun Jusu, said the Special Court had made unprecedented contributions to gender justice and had laid the foundations in international criminal jurisprudence regarding acts of forced marriage, sexual violence, sexual slavery and the recruitment and use of child soldiers during the conflict as punishable.
“The Special Court had successfully delivered on the goals set for it by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations,” she said, underscoring the need for the Organization and the international community to continue supporting the Court to complete its work.
Outlining just a few important milestones, she said the Court had attained victory for victims of sexual violence, for human rights, for democracy and for the hundreds of former child soldiers and adoptees who had had the letters “RUF”, the acronym for the Revolutionary United Front, carved or engraved with hot iron onto their backs and chests to prevent them from escaping. Further, the Court had made critical contributions to national reconciliation efforts and to the restoration and maintenance of international peace and security in West Africa.
“The successful completion of the Court’s mandate would send a powerful message that the international community strongly supports institutions established to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes, and in so doing, deter or minimize the perpetration of such atrocities in the future,” she said. “However, the victory so well acclaimed will be incomplete if want of adequate resources and financial impediments choke the tribunal from fairly and fully completing its mandate and its residual task to their logical conclusions.”
She counted on the Security Council to spare no efforts to avoid that scenario and to launch appropriate mechanisms to provide the much-needed relief and assistance to the Court for its continued survival.
Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, told the Council that “the Special Court’s successes are truly your successes,” as she highlighted a report containing its achievements, including a number of “firsts”. After a final judgment was delivered in appellate proceedings in the case of Mr. Taylor, the Court would transition to residual status and close its doors.
“It will be the first international criminal tribunal to do so,” she continued, summarizing a report on the Court’s activities, achievements and the completion of its mandate, and it was “the first of its kind”. The Special Court was indeed the first partnership between national authorities and the United Nations to create a credible system of post-conflict justice, she said.
Not only was it the first hybrid tribunal created to assist a State that desired post-conflict justice, but did not have the capacity to ensure it, the Special Court was the first United Nations-sponsored tribunal to carry out its work in the territory where serious international humanitarian law violations were committed, ensuring that the survivors were participants in justice, not merely bystanders to it, she said.
“I could tell you that the Special Court had delivered on its mandate,” she said. “I could tell you that it has contributed to ending impunity. I could tell you that it has brought justice to the people of Sierra Leone. I could tell you that, but I think it’s more important that you hear that from the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia themselves.” She then drew the Council’s attention to studies showing that of those surveyed, 91 per cent of those living in Sierra Leone and 78 per cent in Liberia believed the Special Court had contributed to bringing peace to their countries.
Turning to another “first”, she told the Council that the Special Court was “a living example of the progress of your resolution”, referring to the twelfth anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000), which urged Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict. For the first time in the history of international tribunals, all four principals — the President, the Prosecutor, the Registrar and the Principal Defender — were all women, she said.
Prosecutor Brenda J. Hollis of the Special Court, seconding Justice Fisher’s comments, said that the most important legacy of the Court was the prosecution of those who bore the greatest responsibility for horrific crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone. Therefore, the Office of the Prosecutor, she recounted, had acted expeditiously in presenting 13 indictments, starting in 2003, charging senior leaders of the three main factions in the Sierra Leone conflict, all of whose cases were completed through appeal by 2009.
Mr. Taylor, who did not surrender to the Special Court until 2006, was also prosecuted expeditiously and effectively, she said, with the number of charges reduced for that purpose. His conviction was the first of a former Head of State by an international criminal tribunal since the Nuremberg trials in 1946. His conviction and subsequent sentencing for 50 years in prison came because it was shown that he had planned the attacks that culminated in the 1999 invasion of Freetown, Liberia and the resulting mass crimes. It was also shown that he aided and abetted members of the Revolutionary United Front and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council in the commission of the charged crimes. The Office of the Prosecutor and Mr. Taylor had both appealed the judgment and the sentence, she noted.
Other achievements of which her office was proud included an outreach programme that engaged the people of Sierra Leone, particularly the affected communities in the judicial process carried out in their name. It was also the first Court to prosecute the use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers and forced marriage as an inhumane act, resulting in jurisprudence that might be relied on by other international, as well as national courts. She thanked all who contributed to those achievements, including the Council, the people of Sierra Leone and Member States that supported the Court in various ways.
She said that the most demanding challenges the Court faced included indictment, staffing and witness protection issues, emphasizing that the security of witnesses remained a significant challenge, as many named individuals who had committed horrific crimes still lived among those witnesses, and the Residual Special Court, which would over protection responsibilities, was mandated to have a light, efficient footprint. It was imperative that the Residual Special Court be sufficiently resourced to meet such critical responsibilities, “if we are to ensure that those who have risked their well-being to give meaning to justice continue to be protected by the Court that they serve”.
Delivering statements after the briefing were the representatives of India, United Kingdom, Germany, Pakistan, Togo, South Africa, Russian Federation, Colombia, Azerbaijan, Morocco, France, United States, China, Portugal and Guatemala.
The meeting began at 10:23 a.m. and ended at 12:08 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2012/21 reads as follows:
“The Security Council expresses its warm appreciation to the President and Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone for their briefing to the Security Council on 9 October 2012.
“The Security Council reiterates its strong support for the Special Court and commends the progress the Special Court has achieved (S/2012/741). The Security Council particularly notes the contribution of the Special Court to strengthening stability in Sierra Leone and the subregion and bringing an end to impunity.
“The Security Council congratulates the Special Court on the completion of the trial proceedings in the case of Charles Taylor on 30 May 2012. The Security Council takes note of the commencement of appellate proceedings in the case of Charles Taylor and the projected schedule for the completion of those appellate proceedings by 30 September 2013.
“The Security Council also acknowledges the Special Court’s progress towards completion. The Security Council underlines its expectation that all organs of the Special Court will do their utmost to finish the remaining work of the Court, including any contempt cases, in accordance with the completion strategy.
“The Security Council commends the important outreach activities of the Special Court in bringing its judicial work to the attention of the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, and thereby contributing to the restoration of the rule of law throughout those countries and the region.
“The Security Council commends the Special Court for the important contribution made to international criminal justice concerning the crimes within its jurisdiction, namely, crimes against humanity, serious violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as certain crimes under Sierra Leonean law, and recognizes its work in the areas of women, peace and security, and the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including through its outreach and witness support programmes.
“The Security Council recognizes the need to address residual matters after the closure of the Court, including the supervision of the enforcement of sentences for convicted persons, the protection of witnesses, and the preservation of the archives of the Special Court. In this regard, the Security Council welcomes the Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone on the Establishment of a Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.
“The Security Council urges the international community to continue to support the Special Court as it moves into its final stage of work.
“The Security Council in particular takes note of the Special Court’s ongoing and urgent need for financial support. The Security Council emphasizes the vital need for further pledges of voluntary contributions in order to allow the Special Court to complete its mandate in a timely manner. The Security Council calls upon Member States to contribute generously to the Special Court and for the implementation of the Agreement establishing the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, and encourages the Secretary-General to cooperate with the Registrar of the Special Court in order to find practicable solutions to address the needs of the Residual Special Court in the most efficient and effective manner.
“The Security Council will continue to offer strong support to the Special Court as it nears the completion of its mandate and to the Residual Special Court as it commences its functioning.”
SHRI E. AHAMED, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, welcomed what he said was the successful carrying out of the mandate of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and expressed the hope that the Court would complete its work by 30 September 2013. He also welcomed international cooperation in serving the cause of justice in the country, particularly that shown by the Government of Rwanda in the enforcement of sentences, as well as the Court’s outreach activities, and called for continued support to the Court and its Residual Special Court. In that light, he noted his country’s partnership with Sierra Leone in its reconstruction efforts, pledging a continuation of that partnership and affirming the importance of next month’s national elections for the country.
MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) affirmed the importance of the Special Court, and the support of the Council for it, in ending impunity for serious crimes. He looked forward to the completion of the mandate in 2013, while acknowledging the challenges in wrapping up issues related in the case of Charles Taylor, whose prosecution had sent a strong message about “the reach and patience of international justice”. Describing his country’s financial support and offer to imprison Mr. Taylor in the United Kingdom, he pledged that the United Kingdom’s support would continue long after the convictions and sentencing. Welcoming outreach and legacy activities of the Court, including in the area of gender, he stressed the importance of continued funding for it, urging all Member States to consider further support.
CHRISTOPHE EICK (Germany) recognized the invaluable contributions of the Special Court in bringing justice to the victims of terrible crimes, in partnership with the United Nations, as well as its outreach activities, its contributions to jurisprudence related to gender-based crimes and child recruitment, and its landmark prosecution of a head of State, which makes clear that the “age of accountability has in fact begun”. His country had made significant contributions to the Court’s budget, as well as for witness protection and other needs. He supported further efforts to find practical solutions to ensure the successful completion of the Court’s work.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) expressed appreciation and complete support for the Special Court’s work, including its procedure, its outreach to the people of Sierra Leone and its contributions to strengthening the justice system of the country. He urged all concerned stakeholders to continue to support the Court in finishing all its remaining tasks.
KODJO MENAN ( Togo) said there were two features that could have been considered defects that might have hampered the Court’s success, namely its financing and its location, where the socio-political trauma could have compromised its mandate. Yet, the Court had fostered unforeseen progress in international criminal justice and had enriched international criminal law. Elements of jurisprudence from the Court would continue to nurture debate on issues, including sexual violence and terrorism.
Further, he said that commitments made to ensure the lasting effect of the Court’s achievements, and the conservation of its archives were signs of progress. His country supported the idea of commemorating the Court with a museum or exhibit, and hoped the Court could take the measures needed to accompany those exhibits with education initiatives aimed at ensuring those atrocities never occurred again. If the Court’s success had been made possible by cooperation among States, it was possible to use that cooperation to ensure the Residual Court was duly supported, he added.
ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) said the fight against impunity remained an important building block for justice. Commending the Court for strengthening stability in the country and region, he said it had also contributed to establishing rule of law. The Court was a model of complementarity, he said. He was also pleased with the agreement for the Residual Court and was confident that the planned Peace Museum would also become a contribution to stability.
SERGEY KAREV ( Russian Federation) said the Special Court was scheduled to close next year, after which a compact residual mechanism would be launched. The Rwandan residual mechanism had already opened this year, and he hoped the Special Court for Sierra Leone would be able to avoid the problems facing other similar courts. Overall, the outcome of the Court’s work should be seen as positive, making a contribution to international justice, as well as to strengthening the rule of law on the national and international levels, he said.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said the Court’s important work and mission had been largely completed. Among the results, the visible prosecution of Mr. Taylor was a landmark. The Court had made an important contribution to criminal justice. He believed the activities aimed at disseminating and promoting the Court’s work were essential, as they were the best way to ensure the positive effect of rule of law and good governance. The Court had been very active in implementing its completion strategy, he said, welcoming the establishment of a residual mechanism. However, without support, the completion of the strategy would stumble upon immense difficulties.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) expressed appreciation for the work of the Special Court and progress towards the completion of its mandate, as well as its contributions to end impunity, promote the maintenance of peace and security, advance the rule of law, reconciliation, and jurisprudence in post-conflict situations. Its approach to victims was particularly noteworthy, as was its contribution to gender justice. He expressed hope that the Court would complete its work as expeditiously as possible and called on the international community to continue to provide support.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) thanked the Prosecutor and the President of the Special Court for the passion they had shown in the pursuit of justice, as well as all stakeholders for their contributions to the Court. The Court’s importance went well beyond the completion of trials; it was an innovative model of justice based on international standards and national ownership. He commended all concerned for agreement on completion dates, but stressed the need to maintain financial support adequate for critical remaining tasks, such as protection of witnesses, building a legacy and building capacity in the national legal system. Paying tribute to the people and Government of Sierra Leone, he pledged his country’s continuing support for stability and prosperity in what he called a brotherly country.
MARTIN BRIENS ( France), supporting the Presidential Statement, noted his delegation’s full support to the Court over the term of its existence. Calling the Court’s legacy “vast”, he said that it provided lessons on other issues, such as potential cases against individuals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The appreciation of the people of Sierra Leone must be borne in mind when the Council takes up its debate on international justice as it serves the cause of international peace and security. The Charles Taylor case had shown the regional impact of conflicts, as well as how the United Nations could apply a holistic strategy in resolving them. No doubt the Court had contributed significantly to such a strategy, he added.
JEFFREY DE LAURENTIS ( United States) said the Special Court had been instrumental in helping the people of Sierra Leone move on from a “painful chapter” in their history. Noting the Court’s contributions in jurisprudence, gender issues and other areas, he said that the tribunal’s work was not yet done, and he welcomed the establishment of the Residual Special Court. Noting that his country was instrumental in setting up and supporting the Special Court, and was its largest financial contributor, he welcomed intentions to reduce costs and improve efficiency in the completion of remaining tasks. The United States would endeavour to contribute to closing the reported financial gap, he said, urging others to contribute, as well, to help Sierra Leone progress to peace and security while learning the lessons of the past.
GUO XIAOMEI ( China) said the Court would become the first international criminal tribunal to close its doors and she acknowledged its efforts and achievements, which would serve as a source of reference to other tribunals. At the conclusion of the work, a small-scale Residual Court would be established, and she hoped both courts would contribute to long-term stability. She hoped countries would continue to provide support to the courts — and Sierra Leone.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said the Court had left behind a legacy of interpretation and application of international law on issues related to crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. He was grateful to the Court’s efforts to ensure that the mission entrusted to it would come to a successful conclusion.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said given his country’s history, he recognized the important and indispensable role of a court of this nature in the fight against impunity and the enforcement of justice in the country. He also recognized the Court’s important contribution to national and international criminal justice; legally proceeding against those who bore the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leone’s national law committed since 30 November 1996.
He then highlighted the Court’s national reconciliation and restoration and maintenance of peace in the country and the region, applauding its historic contribution to the understanding of the impact of armed conflict on women and girls reflected in its jurisprudence and its treatment of the survivors as participants in post-conflict justice. He urged that the transition process was orderly and effective and that the Residual Special Court performed its duties in a timely and efficient manner.
* *** *