UN-affiliated Special Court for Sierra Leone raises $10 million

30 September 2005

The United Nations-affiliated Special Court for Sierra Leone received nearly $10 million from Member States today for the next year, but the amount fell far short of the estimated $25 million needed to continue bringing to justice those accused of having committed serious crimes during the West African country's 1990s civil war.

Wrapping up the pledging conference, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel said the United Nations would continue to work with Member States to reach the $25 million goal.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told the conference: "We are determined that the Court, after three years of important achievements and with trials at an advanced stage, must not now fail due to lack of resources."

The Court allowed those who were affected by the civil war crimes to witness justice being done first-hand, which was vital to the process of national reconciliation, she said.

The Special Court was a new model, set apart from others by its limited mandate and by its hybrid funding, coming both from voluntary contributions and from the UN, Registrar Robin Vincent said.

Emphasizing its costs, he said that since the Court functioned in the very country where the abuses had occurred, the witnesses and the accused needed protection during trials. Only with broad support would the institution be able to leave a lasting legacy to Sierra Leone and the international community, he said.

Reporters at a later news conference asked about the Court's ability to prosecute former Liberian President Charles Taylor, whose exile in Nigeria allowed peace to return to his country, and missing former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council of Sierra Leone commander Johnny Paul Koroma.

Chief Prosecutor Desmond De Silva replied that the Court had received high praise from many Member States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the speed and efficiency of its work.

Mr. Taylor was aware that the court was trying to extradite him and diplomatic negotiations were taking place behind the scenes to convince Nigeria to turn him over to the Court for the terrible crimes he had committed against the people of Sierra Leone, he added.

Mr. Taylor could only be pursued through diplomatic means because the Court, not having been set up under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, lacked the power to compel his surrender. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Government was awaiting the results of the upcoming Liberian elections to see if the new Government would ask for Mr. Taylor to be handed over.

On the question of whether the Court would be seen as a failure if it could not prosecute Mr. Taylor or Mr. Koroma, if Mr. Koroma was still alive, Mr. De Silva said the Nuremberg Trails were not judged to be a failure just because Adolf Hitler had committed suicide.