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$10 Mill for Sierra Leone Special Court, Far Short

UN Member States Pledge Nearly $10 Million For Special Court For Sierra Leone, Far Short Of Estimated Requirements

After Three Years of Important Achievements, Court Must Not Fail Due to Lack of Resources, Deputy Secretary-General Says

Member States this morning pledged nearly $10 million, to finance the activities of the Special Court for Sierra Leone through next year, far short of the $25 million the tribunal’s Registrar estimated would be needed to continue to investigate cases and bring to justice those accused of responsibility for serious crimes during the West African country’s civil war during the 1990s.

[The Special Court was set up jointly in 2002 by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations. It is mandated to try those who bear the “greatest responsibility” for violations of international humanitarian law and national law, including murder, rape, looting and sexual slavery committed in the West African country’s territory since 30 November 1996. Currently, 11 persons associated with all three of the country’s former warring factions stand indicted by the Special Court.

The Freetown-based Court was primarily financed through voluntary contributions of States through the end of 2004. In June 2005, the General Assembly appropriated $20 million to supplement the Court’s financial resources for the first six months of this year and authorized United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to enter further commitments of up to $13 million to meet expenses for the second half the year. But from 1 January 2006, the Court will revert to voluntary contributions.]

At the outset of the meeting, Registrar Robin Vincent said the Special Court had been a new model, set apart by its limited mandate and by its hybrid funding, both from voluntary contributions and from the United Nations. Since the Court would continue working in the country where the abuses occurred, witnesses and the accused would need protection during trials. Only with broad support would the Court be able to leave a lasting legacy to Sierra Leone and the international community, he said.

“We are determined that the Court, after three years of important achievements and with trials at an advanced stage, must not now fail due to lack of resources”, added United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, who also highlighted what the Court meant to the people of Sierra Leone, particularly since it allowed those who were affected to witness justice being done first-hand, which was vital to the process of national reconciliation.

“Sierra Leone can not have peace without justice”, that country’s Foreign Minister Alhaji Momodu Koroma said, stressing that the Special Court was an instrument of that peace, and that it sent a message to the international community that no one could commit grave crimes with impunity. As the Court neared the end of its mandate and went into its last year, full funding for its work would be a symbol that violence would never again be tolerated.

Allan Rock, of Canada, Chair of the Court’s Management Committee, said the tribunal’s communications strategy had been truly innovative, and news of its activities had reached people throughout Sierra Leone. The Court still required two major indictees to be handed over, former Liberian President Charles Taylor and Johnny Paul Koroma. Seeing justice done in their cases would require regional cooperation and the support of the international community.

Praising the Special Court as a model of innovation in the international legal arena, Ian Levin, of Human Rights Watch, said the Court, nevertheless, faced persistent challenges, including completing trials and appeals fairly and effectively and ensuring that all indictees appeared before the Court. The lack of dependable funding jeopardized the work of the court and it would be a crime if its work was compromised for lack of funds, he said.

After a video of the atrocities and the Court in operation was shown, the representative of the United Kingdom said the film demonstrated the Court reaching out to the people who had been damaged by the atrocities. Those people deserved justice and support in seeing justice carried out. He pledged £2 million or approximately $3.5 million.

Pledging $1.2 million for the 2006 budget, the representative of the Netherlands said his country fully supported the Court both financially and politically.

Denmark pledged Dkr 2.9 million or $467,000, saying the Court’s mandate was to bring justice for those who had been wronged. Therefore, Charles Taylor must be brought forward. The Court had already benefited the people of Sierra Leone by advancing public awareness of justice. Hopefully, elements of the Special Court would become permanent structures in Sierra Leone. Also, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) was leaving at the end of the year. The country should not be left on its own but troops had not yet been committed to the follow-up mission.

Australia’s representative pledged $A 100,000 and noted that his country was supporting Sierra Leone in other ways as well, including by making contributions to the mission in the amount of $6 million.

Noting that the Court was making a seminal contribution to justice in Sierra Leone, Belgium pledged €150,000 or approximately $180,000. The Court was also making new legal precedent, Ireland’s representative added as he pledged $360,000.

Canada’s representative pledged Can$ 1.7 million, including Can$ 1.2 million for 2006 and Can$ 500,000 for 2007. In kind contributions included Can$ 1 million for Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers for investigations and witness protection, legal interns and legal research. Also, Can$ 90,000 in the form of a police trainer to train the Sierra Leone Police in witness protection and major case management.

Germany pledged €500,000 through its embassy in Freetown for the Court’s activities and projects for protecting witnesses, the courageous men and women who were often the only ones enabling the Court to reach a verdict.

The European Commission’s delegate recalled the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, the European Union’s financial instrument for human rights and democratization work, which had supported criminal courts in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as in Sierra Leone, where a programme for victims of crimes had also been set up. Another €695,244 ($846,807) was being set up for a follow-on project to protect victims and witnesses, contribute to judicial know-how, and engage the public in the Court’s work.

Others taking part in today’s event were Norway, pledging NKr 1 million ($115,000); Turkey, pledging $200,000; and Finland, pledging €300,000 or $360,000, to bring the country’s total contribution to $1 million to date.

Continuing, Austria pledged $120,000; Greece pledged $25,000; and Italy said it pledged an amount to be determined later, along with other types of contributions.

Wrapping up the conference, the Legal Counsel and Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Nicolas Michel, said Sweden had also pledged SKr 4 million. Also, the United Nations would continue to work with Member States to reach the $25 million goal for the Court.

© Scoop Media

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