For ten years, Sierra Leone was ravaged by a brutal civil war in which tens of thousands of people were killed, raped, and mutilated, and hundreds of thousands were expelled from their homes.
After the war ended, the government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations created the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) to try those most responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since it was established in 2002, it has indicted 13 individuals, including former Liberian President Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh, leader of the notorious RUF rebels.
By bringing such people to justice, the SCSL gave Sierra Leoneans hope that that no one will be above the law.
"We saw Charles Taylor indicted, a former president. We saw Foday Sankoh, a former warlord, all these people. Now we have the belief that no matter what you are, no matter what position you hold, no matter the type of money or the wealth you have, the court will be above you," says Chief Kasanga, one of the voices reflecting on the legacy of SCSL in ICTJ's multimedia project "Seeds of Justice: Sierra Leone".
This multimedia project brings together voices of five Sierra Leoneans of different backgrounds reflecting on the legacy of the court as it nears the completion of its mandate.
One of them is Mohhamed Bah who lost his arm after being recruited as a child soldier by the RUF., Today he advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities. "Many of us we are pleased when the verdict was passed at The Hague [against Charles Taylor]," he says. "But still much needs to be done to address the needs of persons who were amputated during the war."
And while the views can differ about whether the court could have done more, or could have done better, it seems all Sierra Leoneans are clear about the contribution of the SCSL to the rule of law in the country.
As Sierra Leone embarks on a future of stability and development, the voices featured in "Seeds of Justice: Sierra Leone" all agree: the role of justice is critical for their future. In the words of Aminata Sesay: "No matter what development is going on now, without justice there is no peace."
Seeds of Justice: Sierra Leone is part of the Sierra Leone Special Court Legacy project.