Regional conference reflects on Special Court’s enduring legacy

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  VP Juldeh and other stakeholders in photo ops during the conference

By Alhaji Haruna Sani

The Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone (RSCSL), in collaboration with its partners, initiated a two-day regional conference to deliberate on the enduring legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, shedding light on its contributions to international justice, peace, and security.

Held at the Bintumani Hotel, the conference attracted a distinguished audience, including officials from the RSCSL, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor,the Vice President of Sierra Leone, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, judges, lawyers from Sierra Leone and neighboring countries, and other key stakeholders.

Established in 2002 by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations, the Special Court for Sierra Leone aimed to prosecute individuals bearing the greatest responsibilities for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law during the Sierra Leone civil war, particularly after November 30, 1996.

During the opening ceremony, Vice President of the RSCSL, Justice Emmanuel Robert, spoke on behalf of the President, expressing the profound importance of the Special Court’s legacy. He emphasised that the conference would extensively reflect on the court’s lessons from 2002 to 2013.

Keynote speaker, Stephen Mathias, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, emphasised the growing call for international justice concerning past conflicts.

Mathias acknowledged the court’s significant role in promoting justice, highlighting its ground-breaking achievement as the first court to convict a former president. He hailed the court as an innovative model of international justice, contributing to Sierra Leone’s long-term peace.

In the final keynote address, Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, underscored the substantial contributions of the Special Court in delivering justice for the atrocities committed during the civil war. He emphasised the court’s message that impunity would not go unpunished.

Madam Beatrice Maille from the RSCSL Oversight Committee highlighted the court’s legacy as a crucial asset for engaging international partners. She emphasised its contributions beyond international humanitarian law, extending to the peace and stability of Sierra Leone.

ICC Prosecutor, Karim Khan, credited Sierra Leone for enriching the ICC and emphasised the enduring legacy of the Special Court, which will continue to inspire and guide future generations.

Representatives from civil society organizations acknowledged the transformative impact of the Special Court on Sierra Leone’s legal system and urged stakeholders to sustain collaborative efforts to uphold its legacy and the rule of law.

Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, Director of the Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research at the Kofi Annan International Peace Training, emphasised that the Special Court was not only vital for delivering justice to victims in Sierra Leone but also sent a relevant message globally, bringing hope to those who suffered.

British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Lisa Chesney, commended the court for delivering on its mandate; highlighting its top-notch methodology and techniques that ensured justice was tangible for the victims.

Acting Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, Justice Nicholas Brown Marke, highlighted the contributions of Sierra Leoneans in establishing the Special Court, emphasizing the lesson that war crimes and crimes against humanity will not go unpunished.

Justice Edrissa Mbai of the Supreme Court of The Gambia praised the court for bridging the gap between national and international boundaries, considering it a valuable learning point for their country.

The conference will continue with panel discussions, examining the court’s legacy, covering topics such as conducting contempt of court proceedings, witness protection, supervision of prison sentences, and management of the SCSL archives among others.

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