Stakeholders Convene on Legacy of the SCSL

While the legacy of the SCSL is a story that is still unfolding, ICTJ is pleased to help facilitate a sustained, international effort to critically assess the lessons to be learned from this groundbreaking institution.

On November 7-8, 2012, ICTJ hosted a conference in New York to initiate this process. In an intimate setting at the Mission of Canada to the UN, participants representing expertise in the fields of criminal law, transitional justice, witness protection, gender justice, and more convened to undertake one of what promises to be many critical assessments of the SCSL. Chatham House Rule allowed for frank debate and open dialogue between justice stakeholders from Sierra Leone, and the international community.

View photos of the conference here.

The first day of the conference began with a critical look back the process of designing, launching and building a hybrid structure. Of particular focus was the impact of voluntary contributions on the management of the court and judicial process, where it was largely agreed that this funding structure created great challenges for the Special Court. Participants discussed the progress on residual issues of the SCSL, namely the next phases of witness protection and the maintenance and preservation of the Court’s archives.

The overall impact of the SCSL was assessed through Sierra Leone’s domestic justice system and its contribution to jurisprudence on international norms and procedures. Of key emphasis throughout the discussions was the particular strength of the Special Court’s robust outreach program, as well as its contributions in developing a model for innovative victim and witness protection programs. Both Sierra Leoneans and international participants underscored the SCSL’s positive impact on the rule of law and accountability for human rights violations, including violations against marginalized groups such as women and children.

Like Sierra Leone before them, countries recovering from massive abuse or repression today still must face the fundamental, underlying challenge of restoring civic trust in state institutions. This task is not something no court can do alone: in order for citizens to regain trust in their judicial system, police, military and even education system, societies in transition require comprehensive transitional strategies.