[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) Thursday [advocacy website] urged [press release] international donors to increase their contributions to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website], echoing a plea by prosecutor Stephen Rapp who warned Wednesday that the tribunal would be forced to release accused former Liberian President Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] "if they run out of resources and can't continue the trial." Taylor's trial before a panel of the court sitting specially at The Hague is scheduled to start next week. Elise Keppler, counsel with HRW's International Justice Program, characterized the trial as a "break from the past" pattern of a lack of "justice for victims of serous human rights violations... [and] puts would-be perpetrators on notice."
Taylor has been indicted [amended indictment text, PDF; SCSL materials] on charges of crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape and the recruitment and use of child soldiers during a bloody civil war in Sierra Leone. His trial, which is expected to last 18 months, was moved to The Hague [JURIST report] for security reasons. The independent SCSL has faced financial shortfalls in the past; in February, Rapp said that the SCSL has raised only half of the $33 million needed [JURIST report] for court proceedings in 2007. The current leading donors for the court are the United States, the Netherlands, Britain, and Canada. Eight other defendants in three cases remain in Freetown, Sierra Leone. AP has more.