International Experts Gather in Freetown to Discuss Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

New York, NY - As the Special Court for Sierra Leone wraps up cases against accused war criminals, a conference will be held later this week in Freetown to assess the Court’s work and lasting legacy. The conference is part of a larger international effort to look at how the court has helped to bring peace and establish the rule of law for the people of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the region as a whole.

The Special Court was set up by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations in 2002, after a decade of violent conflict claimed over 50,000 lives and devastated countless more. The Court was tasked with trying those individuals who bore the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law.

Since then, 13 individuals have been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other serious violations.

In the court’s most high-profile case, former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty in April 2012 of participating in the planning, and aiding and abetting, of crimes committed by rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Once Taylor’s appeal is resolved, the court will conclude its judicial work – but its decisions, archives, prison, and courtroom will live on.

“The court has made a significant contribution to international jurisprudence and played a role in moving the focus of prosecutions for serious crimes back to the national plane,” said David Tolbert, president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, the organization hosting the conference. “Its legacy is rooted in recognizing victims’ rights to justice, strengthening the rule of law, and fighting impunity in Sierra Leone.”

Read ICTJ's press release here.

PHOTO: Women’s rights activists meet in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone, November 2012. Glenna Gordon/ICTJ