The court established by the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone to try cases of serious crimes committed during the West African country's bloody civil war was doing historic work but faced an imminent funding shortfall, the tribunal's President told the UN Security Council today.
In addition to funding assistance, Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola of the Special Court for Sierra Leone urged the Council's support in maintaining security and securing the transfer of indictees still at large, including Johnny Paul Koroma, the leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, and Charles Taylor, who resigned as President of Liberia in August 2003 and has since been granted refuge in Nigeria.
"The international community cannot afford to let the Court fail as such failure would send a negative message to those struggling to combat the culture of impunity and would undermine respect for human rights and international law," Mr. Ayoola said.
He stressed that the Court was at a crucial stage of its operations, with three joint trials underway of the nine persons in custody who are charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
However, the Special Court had received only $54.9 million in voluntary contributions against a four-year budget of $104 million, and there was currently no assurance of funds beyond the end of 2005.
He said that, with the Council's endorsement, he had requested the UN General Assembly to appropriate up to $40 million to the Special Court and the Assembly had authorized a commitment authority of $20 million for the period 31 July 2004 to 30 June 2005. The Court's Registrar was pursuing additional voluntary contributions from Member States and other organizations, including the European Union.
In regard to security, he said that 20 per cent of the Special Court's budget was devoted to protecting witnesses and other arrangements to locate the trials in the country in which the conflict took place. Further security arrangements and funding would be needed by early November 2005, as the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) proceeded with its withdrawal plan.
After consultations that followed Mr. Ayoola's briefing, Council members reiterated their strong support for the Court and welcomed the progress it had achieved, through a statement read to the press by its President, Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Løj of Denmark. They urged all UN Member States to consider making pledges of voluntary contributions to allow the Court to complete its mandate in a timely manner.