A high powered delegation led by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hon Vandi Chidi Minah has assured member states parties and other delegates that Sierra Leone is firmly committed to the provisions of the Rome Statutes.
Sierra Leone is a signatory of the Statutes and believes they perpetuate the values of Customary International Law by removing impunity from people who commit crimes against humanity; which he believes every nation must uphold as a symbol of natural justice.
Hon Vandi Chidi Minah made this commitment during his opening statement at the first Review Conference of the International Criminal Court in Kampala, Uganda for and behalf of the government and people of Sierra Leone.
The Deputy Foreign Minister explained that Sierra Leone is well ahead in her commitment to the promotion of international criminal justice as shown in the establishment of the post war tribunal for Sierra Leone in 2000, (Sierra Leone Special Court (SLSC)) to try all those who bare the greatest responsibility in committing crimes against humanity during the rebel war. The Court he maintained was established by a treaty between the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations and came into force even before the ICC Statute was ratified.
Hon. Vandi Chidi Minah further stated government’s fullest support and co-operation to the Special Court in the implementation of its mandates where eight convicted prisoners are currently serving sentences for war crimes and crimes against humanity and several other perpetrators prosecuted and convicted under the domestic law for related human rights violations. This he explained is to promote the principle of complementarity.
The Deputy Foreign Minister informed states parties and delegates present that the lessons learned from the Special Court for Sierra Leone particularly in identifying mechanisms to enhance effective cooperation for the implementation of its core mandates, its successful outreach activities coupled with its landmark precedents and jurisprudence; could be of significant value to the work of the ICC as well as the Judiciary of Sierra Leone in order to achieve justice for the victims and affected communities. To this end, Hon. Minah disclosed that the government of Sierra Leone in collaboration with the coordinated efforts of the Special Court and their bilateral and multilateral partners has embarked upon a project for the establishment of a witness and victims support unit within the national judiciary.
With confidence the Deputy Foreign Minister also informed the gathering that Sierra Leone is on the verge of domesticating the ICC Statute calling to mind the recent consultative workshop organised by the ICRC with Parliamentarians to sensitize them on the need for the domestication of the Rome Statute. A group of lawyers have prepared a draft bill of the ICC and very soon it will be piloted in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament he added.
Hon. Minah on behalf of the Government and the people of Sierra Leone wholeheartedly supported Article 5 which is the intended inclusion of Terrorism and Drug Trafficking provisions in the Statute noting that drug trafficking is a serious menace that Sierra Leone has been grappling with of late; which is why the government have recently passed the Anti Drugs Act of 2009 to help combat this crime. The Sierra Leone delegation he stated is of the view that any such amendment should be consensually adopted irrespective of the statutory provisions. It is only through consensus that we can clearly show our unswerving resolve to cooperate with the regime of the Statute in the fight against impunity, the promotion of respect for justice and the rule of law he added.
He reiterated his delegation’s firm commitments to the Promotion of international criminal justice and pledged to make efforts culminating to the domestication of the Rome Statute; and to expedite the establishment of the witness and victims support unit within the national judiciary.
It could be recalled that Sierra Leone is one among the 111 countries that have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute but haven’t enacted or drafted the implementation of the statute into the current legislation.
The two weeks Review Conference will end on the 11th June with a Plenary Session with the reports of the Working Groups, the oral report of the Rapporteur and the adoption of the report of the Conference.
By Emmanuel Turay in Nairobi