About this Project

In the international effort to end impunity for grave crimes, the SCSL was a court of many firsts: It was the first court to be established in the country where the crimes took place; the first hybrid court where international and national judges and personnel worked together; the first international court to be funded solely on voluntary contributions from interested states; the first to indict a sitting African head of state, Charles Taylor; and the first to convict individuals for the recruitment and use of child soldiers and for the crime of forced marriage.

The SCSL is expected to close its doors towards the latter half of 2013. The ICTJ wanted to take this opportunity to look more closely at the court's work and reflect on its legacy – not only for Sierra Leoneans but also for the international community. What lessons can we extract from the court’s more than 10 years of existence? How will its work extend beyond the court itself? What has been its impact on the lives of Sierra Leoneans and the future of the country?

To contribute to answering these questions, ICTJ has launched a special multimedia project, Exploring the Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. This website, established to support two conferences that will take place, one in New York on November 7-8, 2012, and one in Freetown in February, 2013, will be regularly updated during this time period, providing information on the history of the court and its legacy in different formats.

The project will present the history of the SCSL through an interactive timeline, with detailed information, videos, and photographs that comprise the mosaic of the most important events and prosecuted cases of the SCSL.

A series of podcasts will explore the multi-dimensional aspects of the Special Court’s legacy, such as its impact on Sierra Leone’s judicial system, innovation around logistical issues like witness protection and the preservation of archives, and its place in the evolution of international criminal justice.

To feature personal reflections from Sierra Leoneans themselves, a multimedia gallery will present the voices of those whose lives have crossed paths with the court and who can reflect on its impact, both on their lives and on the country.

Finally, through this website, you will be able to follow the closing conference in Freetown in February, 2013, which we will blog about. After the conference, videos of the sessions will be available here.

Like the legacy of the SCSL itself, this website aims to live longer than the conferences. ICTJ wants this website to become an educational tool, where anybody who is interested in the legacy of the court will be able to find the information they need in compelling and engaging formats.

About the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is still addressing the legacy of a 10-year civil conflict, marked by intense violence against civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, corruption, and bloody struggle for control of diamond mines. The war claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives; the number of persons raped, mutilated, or tortured is much higher.

In July 1999, the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels signed the Lomé Peace Agreement. They agreed to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which began work in late 2002. The TRC submitted its final report in October 2004. However, the agreement granted unconditional blanket amnesty for all parties, a decision which came under intense international criticism.

In June 2000, Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah asked the United Nations to help the country establish a special court to prosecute those individuals most responsible for human rights violations during the conflict. The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) started operations in July 2002.

As of late 2012, the court has indicted 13 people and tried 9 individuals, including the first sitting African head of state, Charles Taylor, and convicted eight others. Taylor’s case is currently in its appeals phase. Once the appeals judgment has been delivered, the Court will be the first special tribunal to have completed its mandate.