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Special Court on Sierra Leone must be effective

UNSC must make Special Court on Sierra Leone effective

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

13 February 2001 AFR 51/001/2001 26/01

The Security Council must ensure that the Special Court for Sierra Leone succeeds in bringing to justice those most responsible for the atrocities committed during the conflict Amnesty International said today following an exchange of correspondence between the United Nations (UN) Security Council and Secretary-General about the Special Court.

Amnesty International welcomed the Security Council’s decision last August to establish a Special Court for Sierra Leone as a major step towards ending impunity and contributing towards justice for the many thousands of victims who have suffered some of the worst known abuses during Sierra Leone’s internal armed conflict.

The organization also welcomes the proposed amendment by the Security Council of the definition of the crime of recruiting child soldiers so that it reflects international law: All recruitment of children under the age of 15 years is a crime, whether forced or voluntary.

Amnesty International has, however, written to each member of the Security Council to express concern about the effectiveness of the Special Court’s mandate, possible threats to the independence of the Prosecutor and insecurity of the court’s funding.

The Special Court will try those who bear the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. It is proposed, however, that the court’s mandate include only crimes committed since 30 November 1996, the date of a failed peace agreement, rather than since the conflict began on 23 March 1991.

It is vital that the Prosecutor of the Special Court has full independence to prosecute any person who appears to bear responsibility for the most serious crimes committed during the entire period of the conflict., Amnesty International said.

There are concerns that some of the amendments to the draft Statute of the Special Court proposed by the Security Council as to who should be prosecuted before the Special Court may endanger the independence of the Prosecutor, Amnesty International said.

For example, the phrase those who bear the greatest responsibility should not be interpreted to include only the highest military or political leaders, to the exclusion of others who may have been directly responsible for the most serious abuses. The Prosecutor must have full independence to prosecute anyone who appears to bear responsibility, regardless of military rank or political position.

In addition, the Security Council has proposed adding the phrase including those leaders who, in committing such crimes, have threatened the establishment of and implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone. This phrase may result in political considerations influencing the determination by the Prosecutor of which crimes to investigate and prosecute.

Amnesty International shared the conclusion of the UN Secretary-General that a Special Court based entirely on voluntary contributions would be neither viable nor sustainable


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