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Sierra Leone: UN, Government sign historic accord to set up special war crimes court

Sierra Leone: UN, Government sign historic accord to set up special war crimes court

The United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone today signed a landmark agreement establishing a Special Court to prosecute persons bearing “the greatest responsibility” for war crimes during the country’s decade-long civil war.

At a ceremony in the capital Freetown, witnessed by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the agreement was signed by Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Solomon Berewa on behalf of the Government and by Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell on behalf of the UN.

The signing was the culmination of a process that began in 2000 with the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1315 in which Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked to negotiate the creation of an independent special court with the Sierra Leonean Government.

The Court will have temporal jurisdiction over war crimes committed since 30 November 1996 and the Secretary-General will appoint a prosecutor, as well as the majority of the trial and appeals judges to assure the tribunal’s independence.

In his remarks at the signing ceremony, Mr. Corell called the agreement “the first step on the path to combating impunity and addressing the accountability for the serious crimes committed in Sierra Leone that have shocked the conscience of mankind.”

Mr. Corell also appealed to the people of Sierra Leone to support the work of the Special Court as well as the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, urging the traditional leaders to set the example and encourage their people to cooperate with the two institutions.