BLOG: Exploring the Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone-What Did the Women Gain?

UN Women
Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 19:00
Western Africa
Sierra Leone
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding
Initiative Type: 
Online Dialogues & Blogs

The women of Sierra Leone have benefitted enormously from the establishment of the Special Court in Sierra Leone as testified by the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police at the official closing ceremony of the Special Court in Freetown, on 06 February 2013. Inspector General Francis Munu who chairs the National Committee on Gender Based Violence, disclosed that the establishment of the Family Support Unit, Juvenile Courts, Electoral Offenses Court and organized Saturday court sittings to fast track GBV cases, are laudable accomplishments and sound legacies left behind by the court.

The diverse audience, ranging from war-victims, Civil Society Organisations to the diplomatic corps, agreed that the introduction of the gender justice related laws, witness / victim protection programmes (seen as a best practice globally), rehabilitation of war victims, training and exposure of the national judiciary, and a glossary of legal terms interpreted in four local languages have all contributed to empowering the women of Sierra Leone.

The Special Court leaves behind a Justice Sector Development Programme and a state-of-the-art edifice on an 11.5 acre land in the capital city Freetown. Part of this facility is currently and temporarily being used as a women's prison and hosts a law school and peace museum. Eventually, the facility will be fully divested for use by Sierra Leonean legal and law enforcement bodies. The legacy of the Special Court contributes to maintaining the peace that sierra Leone enjoys today. It is up to Sierra Leone now to sustain and maintain the legacy.

In 2002, the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone established the Special Court for Sierra Leone to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996. The Special Court was the first international criminal tribunal to successfully complete its mandate and try a sitting head of state as in the case of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. The Court also is the first to criminalize the conscription of child soldiers, attack of peacekeepers and entry into forced marriage. It has made historic contributions to understanding the impact of armed conflicts on women and girls, as reflected in its jurisprudence and treatment of survivors as participants in post-conflict justice. The Court acknowledged the harms suffered by victims especially “rebel wives” and prosecuted cases even in the absence of the evidence of rape.

The Special Court of Sierra Leone is also the first in international justice where women fill four principal positions: President, Prosecutor, Registrar and Principal Defender.