Special Court for Sierra Leone runs out of funds

The Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL) will run out of money in December and that it will not be possible to secure the necessary voluntary contributions to enable it to complete its work, this according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon.

Special Court for Sierra Leone

The Secretary-General warns of far-reaching repercussions if the Court fails to secure funding in a letter dated November 8, 2012 to the President of the Security Council “the possibility of the Special Court running out of funds and, consequently, being unable to complete the appeal in the case of Mr. Taylor is a very serious concern.”

In addition, Mr. Ban also said “a collapse of this appeal due to lack of funding would raise very substantial issues for the international community. As I have said before, the legacy of the Special Court and the progress that has been made towards ensuring accountability and restoring peace and security in Sierra Leone and the region would be at risk.”

During her address to the Security Council on October 9, 2012 Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, President of the SCSL called for increased funds and support from the international community to establish a Residual Special Court.  “The Residual Special Court will face particular challenges in obtaining voluntary Contributions to fund its operations. The support of the Security Council will be essential to ensure that it can carry out its important responsibilities,” she said.

“War harms women in multiple ways. From mass rapes to mass displacements, women are on the frontlines of conflict and they are demanding justice. This includes effective prosecutions of war crimes and adequate redress for women,” said Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) .

Bachelet also pleaded for continued funding saying the “Special Court for Sierra Leone has served justice and contributed to peace consolidation and reconciliation within a country destroyed by a devastating civil war.  It is now essential that the Court be given the means to complete its mandate and to document and share lessons learned in strengthening women’s access to justice,” she said.

The Court also faces other challenges including insufficient staff, establishing communication with hundreds of witnesses in a safe environment, and developing indictments when there have been a multiple of crimes across a wide geographical area, said SCSL Prosecutor, Brenda Hollis.

According to Mr. Ban, there is a shortfall of about $14 million for the period until the closure of the SCSL.  And, the estimated annual budget for the continuous activities of the Residual Special Court amounts to $2 million.

“The President of the Security Council replied to the Secretary-General on 28 November 2012. The Secretary-General has submitted a request to the General Assembly for the grant of a subvention to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. As the request is being considered by the General Assembly, the Secretary-General is not in a position to state what would happen if the request were not granted and there were  insufficient voluntary funds,” said Jerome Bernard, UN Spokesperson for the Secretary-General responding to an email inquiry if whether the Security Council President has responded to Secretary-General Ban’s letter and what other options available if the Security Council fails to fund the Special Court and if voluntary contributions are insufficient for the Court to continue its mandate?

The SCSL was established as an independent judicial tribunal set up jointly by an agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN. It is mandated to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since 30 November 1996 and during the Sierra Leone Civil War.

The SCSL is the first international criminal tribunal to be funded entirely from voluntary contributions from governments. The Court has offices in Freetown, Sierra Leone, The Hague and in New York

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