In early February, 2013, ICTJ convened an international conference in Freetown, Sierra Leone that brought together high-level international stakeholders, policy makers and legal experts to discuss the legacy of the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL).
The conference was a part of a year-long effort to assess how way the SCSL has contributed to the establishment of the rule of law for Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the broader region. Participants also discussed the myriad ways the Special Court held lessons for ongoing projects of international criminal justice.
Topics under consideration at the conference included the court’s impact on peace-building and its long-term legal commitments, such as the protection of witnesses and the preservation of thousands of documents gathered through court proceedings.
The event brought together senior officials of the government of Sierra Leone, district chiefs, state representatives, former and current staff members of the Special Court, academics and legal professionals, and civil society representatives from Sierra Leone and Liberia.
In the keynote address, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone Franklyn Bai Kargbo said that the Special Court has encouraged rule of law and judicial reform by successfully prosecuting and convicting the most egregious perpetrators of war crimes.
“It is now part of the national psyche that the rule of the gun is today no longer an option for Sierra Leoneans,” Kargbo said.
Registrar of the Special Court Binta Mansaray mentioned in a speech that the Court helped contribute to peace despite grappling with highly-charged issues including the trial of Civil Defence Forces leaders, whom many considered to be heroes during and after the war; the trial of commanders who had become peacemakers; the trial of a sitting head of state for crimes committed in a neighboring country; and the Prosecutor’s decision not to try child combatants.
The Special Court was set up in 2002 by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations, the court was established to put on trial those who violated international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law in the country’s decade-long civil war.