Global Policy Forum

Security Council Says Sierra Leone War Crimes Court

UN News
December 28, 2000

Amid ongoing discussions between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone on the setting up of a tribunal to prosecute war crimes in that country, the UN Security Council has suggested that the court prosecute only the top leaders who played main roles in the commission of crimes, according to a document released today in New York. The recommendation came in a letter dated 22 December from the Security Council to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and follows the Council's review of a report from Mr. Annan on the establishment of the Special Court.

Recommending that the Court should have personal jurisdiction only over "persons who bear the greatest responsibility" for the crimes, the Council members said juvenile offenders would instead go before the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission. To this end, they encouraged the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN to develop suitable institutions, including specific provisions related to children.

According to estimates from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), some 5,000 children -- mostly boys -- were used as combatants during Sierra Leone's nine-year civil war, during which mutilations of civilians were a common tactic.

The Security Council members rejected the Secretary-General's recommendation that the new Court be financed through mandatory fees levied on all UN members, as is the case for the war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. They recommended instead that the Court rely on voluntary funding.

Turning to the subject of allegations towards peacekeepers, the members of the Security Council said they believed it was the responsibility of troop-contributing countries to investigate and prosecute any crimes their soldiers may have committed in Sierra Leone. "Given the circumstances of the situation in Sierra Leone, the Special Court would have jurisdiction over those crimes only if the Security Council considers that the Member State is not discharging that responsibility," the letter stated.

The members of the Security Council also disagreed with the report's proposal of setting up two Trial Chambers, recommending a single Trial Chamber instead, "with the possibility of adding a second Chamber should the developing caseload warrant its creation."

More Information on Sierra Leone and the Special Court
More Information on War Crimes Tribunals
More Information on Sierra Leone


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