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Urgent issues facing Sierra Leone war crimes court: report

The Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged [report, PDF] key national and international players to address residual issues to ensure that the legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leona (SCSL) [official website] will be maintained after its closure in late 2011 with the completion of proceedings against former Liberian president Charles Taylor [OSJI materials; JURIST news archive]. The court will be the first post-Cold War international tribunal to conclude its mandate and has prosecuted eight of those who committed serious violation of international humanitarian law during the conflict in Sierra Leone that started in 1991 and lasted for 11 years. In its report, the OSJI highlighted seven key issues that need urgent attention by the Sierra Leone government, the SCSL, the UN, the Sierra Leone civil society and legal organizations, the donors, and the SCSL Management Committee over the next six months before the court closes:

The closure of the SCSL represents the international community's first opportunity to implement an appropriate exit strategy for international justice. This process will be observed by the other international courts due to close in the next few years: the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and the Extraordinary Chambers for the Courts of Cambodia. The proper closing of the SCSL is the only way to guarantee the investment in justice in Sierra Leone is realized. The Sierra Leonean government, the UN, the SCSL, the court's donors, and Sierra Leonean civil society and legal organizations must act quickly to safeguard the court's legacy.
Even though the final judgment of Taylor is expected in late 2011, if an appeal can be taken, the appellate judgment could then be expected in mid-2012 and with it the closure of the SCSL.

In June, the SCSL indicted [JURIST report] five people on contempt charges for witnesses tampering. Two of the indictees were former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu, who were convicted [JURIST report] by SCSL in June 2007. Their trial began [JURIST report] in March 2005. In 2007, the SCSL charged Charles Taylor with 11 counts [indictment, PDF] of war crimes and crimes against humanity, all of which he denied [JURIST report]. The closing argument [JURIST report] for the former Libyan president began in February of this year.

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