Ahead of the Taylor Verdict: CARL Urges the Sierra Leone Government to advance accountability for grave social and politically-motivated crimes
Freetown, Sierra Leone – The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) said the Sierra Leone Government must reflect on the lessons of the Taylor trial and step up efforts at fostering accountability for serious social and politically-motivated crimes in Sierra Leone, two days before the verdict in the Taylor trial is scheduled to come down.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Taylor nearly ten years ago on 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international law for his role in supporting rebel groups during Sierra Leone’s armed conflict. The Taylor trial – and the verdict – would help bring closure to the most brutal chapter in the country’s history. Beyond the trial, the people of Sierra Leone, including the most affected victims of the conflict, will need to get on with their lives. They will continue to depend on the government to protect their rights as well as provide an enabling environment for them to achieve their individual and collective aspirations.
“Regardless of the outcome of the trial, the indictment, arrest and trial of Charles Taylor have clearly shown that the law is truly powerful,” Ibrahim Tommy, Executive Director of CARL said today, adding that “Justice for crimes of international nature can only make an enduring impact on the lives of victims when such efforts are reinforced by truly independent and well-functioning national institutions of justice.”
When the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations agreed to establish the Special Court to ‘try those who bear the greatest responsibility’ for the egregious crimes that took place during the country’s civil conflict, they did so as part of efforts to combat impunity and deliver justice to the victims of the conflict. The Special Court proceedings have certainly helped to send a clear message about the international community’s resolve to combat impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This message needs to be reinforced at the national level by a government that is truly committed to combating impunity for crimes of all nature. A truly independent judicial system is also critical to such efforts. At the moment, serious gaps exist. Some of the challenges that confront the national justice system include inordinate delays in trials, unequal access to justice, lack of effective witness protection mechanisms particularly victims of sexual offences, paucity of trained police prosecutors, and a judicial system that is still struggling to regain public confidence.
“The Government of Sierra Leone must remain committed to its constitutional obligation to uphold the rule of law and deliver justice to all, regardless of their social or political connections. A government that is truly dedicated to enforcing accountability for economic, social and politically-motivated crimes represents the best hope for Sierra Leoneans,” said Joseph Sesay, CARL’s Senior Court Monitor who followed the Taylor trial since its commencement.
The trial of Charles Taylor – which was moved to The Hague for ‘security reasons’ – lasted for five years. The judges spent more than 12 months reviewing 50,000 pages of transcripts, and the testimony of almost 120 witnesses. If convicted, Mr. Taylor will serve his sentence in a British high security prison.
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