As it nears the end of its mandate in May 2010, the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL) yesterday opened a two day Residual Issues Conference which is geared towards planning activities for its winding down.
During the programme which was held at the court room President Ernest Bai Koroma commended the work of the Court for their dedication and commitment to end impunity in the country.
The President said that the role of judges, government, civil society and management is important and crucial and this he said cannot be over emphasized.
Speaking about the agreement between the court and the government of Sierra Leone, President Koroma maintained that the agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and the court was signed and passed by parliament in 2002.
“This 11.5 acre which houses the court, was donated by the government of Sierra Leone and it was a virgin land which was over five years old. This $ 400,000 worth of building is an outstanding tribute and dedication to the handwork of those concerns.”
He went on “this court will be leaving behind a magnificent legacy for children unborn.”
Declaring the conference open the President said that such conference with members of the different international tribunals was held in Washington DC and the Special Court residual conference is very important for the government of Sierra Leone, urging that the original archives to the Special Court be kept here.
As the court was established to end impunity and punish those who caused atrocities on people and part of his agenda is to eliminate impunity, the President called on “other organizations such as the Bar Association, the Law Officers Department, the Police and Prison Force, the judiciary to play a part in achieving government’s aim.”
In his remarks, the President of the Special Court, Justice George Gelaga-King said that the conference is vital as it is in anticipation of what will happen to the court after its closure.
Speaking about the origin of the court, Justice Gelaga-King explained that it started operations in 2002 and has indicted nine people for offences committed against international criminal law.
Justice Gelaga-King added that the court exists to ensure that those who perpetrate impunity do not go unpunished.
So far he went on, the Appeals Chamber of the court has rendered some hard decisions including an indictment against a sitting head of state under international criminal law, and also the recruitment of child soldiers below the age of 15 in hostility.
“When the court closes down its work will not go in vain but will have a legacy to leave behind.”
Sierra Leone’s representative in the Management Committee of the Special Court, Mr. Allieu Kanu in his statement said that during the inaugural speech of President Koroma he had stressed that “the culture of impunity that took root in the country will be eliminated so it is incumbent for us all to tackle it in all areas.”
The goal of the Special Court, he went on, is to bring justice and redress for all those who suffered impunity during the war.
What will happen to the court after it closes down? The Ambassador asked “this is now the right time to start discussion about what will happen to the court after its mandate ends.”