Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Get E-News from The Advocates
Transitional Justice Mechanisms in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone emerged from more than ten years of conflict marked by intense and cruel violence against civilians, corruption, a struggle for control over the diamond mines, the recruitment of child soldiers and the cross-border involvement of forces from Liberia. The civil war left the country in physical and economic ruin. More than 75,000 are believed to have been killed, and the number of persons raped, mutilated, or tortured is much higher still. The war captured international headlines over a prevalent policy of forced amputations, which were carried out even on very young children. In July 1999, the government of Sierra Leone and the leadership of the main rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), signed a peace agreement in Lomé, Togo. The peace accords included an unconditional general amnesty for all parties to the war, which was strongly criticized by local and international human rights groups and others.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)

In the Lomé Peace Agreement, the government and RUF also agreed to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The mandate of the TRC is to create an impartial historical record of human rights abuses as a result of a violent armed conflict, from the beginning of the conflict in March of 1991, to the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement in 1999. The TRC is mandated to address impunity, respond to the needs of the victims,

Interview with Bishop Humper, the TRC Chairperson
promote healing and reconciliation, and prevent a repetition of the violations. It is also to investigate and research key events, causes, patterns of abuse and violations, and identify the parties responsible. The TRC held individual and thematic public hearings, which included live testimonies from witnesses and victims, and took 9,500 statements nationwide on the events of the decade-long armed struggle. A final report on the TRC’s findings, including recommendations, has been released and is available on the TRC's website. Both the child-friendly version and video version of the report are now available. The Sierra Leone government also issued a white paper that discusses the actions it will take in relation to the TRC report, which was followed by an open letter from civil society in response to this white paper.

Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL)

In August 2000, in response to a request from Sierra Leone President Kabbah, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1315 (PDF,

The Special Court of Sierra Leone
3 pages) mandating the creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (Special Court) to prosecute "those persons who bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of violations of international humanitarian law." On January 16, 2002, after over a year of negotiations, the U.N. and the government of Sierra Leone signed an agreement that created the legal framework for the Special Court, an independent court using both international and Sierra Leonean law, judges, and prosecutors. The court is based in Freetown and will prosecute persons bearing "the greatest responsibility" for serious violations of international humanitarian law and certain crimes under national law perpetrated between 30 November 1996 and 1999. On 19 April 2002, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed a senior attorney of the United States Department of Defense, David Crane, as the Special Court chief prosecutor, and Robin Vincent (United Kingdom) as registrar. The Special Court will operate until December 2005 and has a proposed budget of U.S.$56.8 million. A management committee (representing the major donor states of the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Canada, as well as Lesotho and Nigeria) has oversight over the functioning of the court.

Thirteen indictments were originally issued against members of the RUF, AFRC and CDF. However, two indictments were withdrawn due to deaths of the accused. The AFRC and CDF trials have been completed; the RUF and Taylor trials continue.