Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transition to the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone

There has been relatively little discussion in the blogosphere on the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) for several months now, likely because the main activities of the Court are currently all behind the scenes: Trial Chamber II is drafting its judgment in the Charles Taylor case for issuance by the end of the year, and the Court is working to cement its legacy and prepare for its closure and transition into the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Two recent publications on the SCSL are therefore of interest to those of us who follow developments at the Court. I will discuss the first publication – the Eighth Annual Report of the President of the SCSL (June 2010 to May 2011; pictured at right) – in this post, and will discuss the second - the Open Society Justice Initiative’s recent report on “Legacy: Completing the Work of the SCSL” - in tomorrow’s post.
The SCSL will be the first international tribunal to close, which will happen after the completion of any appeals proceedings in the Taylor case, estimated for mid-2012. The Eighth Annual Report of the President of the SCSL outlines various challenges, and successes, associated with getting to completion.
Funding the Completion Budget
One of the main difficulties for the SCSL has been to obtain enough voluntary state contributions from year to year in order to keep operating. The Report makes clear the incredible amount of time the Registrar and others spent trying to fundraise in 2010 and 2011 in order to fund the Court to its closure. Indeed, there were likely weeks – if not months – in which the Registrar’s and the Court’s Management Committee’s main work was related to fundraising, even as the high-profile Taylor trial was ongoing. In the end, however, the Report notes that this effort was not enough: a financial crisis was only narrowly averted when the Management Committee members obtained additional funds from their own governments and the Committee, with the Registrar, secured a UN subvention grant. The Completion Budget, covering the period of 1 January 2011 to 31 May 2012, is set at $20.7 million USD: approx. $16 million for 2011 and approx. $4.7 million for 2012. This Budget is funded by the UN subvention grant of $9.9 million in 2011 and $2.4 million in 2012 and voluntary contributions from states. Yet again, the time spent by Court and Management Committee officials in fundraising and the need to ultimately obtain another UN subvention suggest that voluntarily-funded tribunals are not necessarily viable in the long run.
The Shrinking Court
The Report also outlines how the Court is shrinking to prepare for closure, both in terms of personnel and in terms of space. During the reporting period, a total of 138 posts were downsized in both Freetown and in The Hague, such that only 66 regular budgeted posts remain as of December 2011. The number of Sierra Leoneans at the Court is almost half: as of 31 March 2011, 41 out of 85 judges and court personnel were Sierra Leonean. The reduction in staff levels has been both planned and unplanned. Planned reductions occurred with the close of the Taylor trial, while the SCSL is also losing staff members with critical institutional memory who leave to take up more secure positions in other places. This loss of institutional knowledge is also severely affecting the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR), as noted by the ICTY’s President Robinson in his recent speech to the UN General Assembly.
In February 2011, the UN peacekeepers of the SCSL’s Mongolian Guard Force formally handed over responsibility for the Court’s security to the Sierra Leonean Police. A total of 2,300 Mongolian peacekeepers have served at the SCSL under a UN mandate. UN peacekeepers had maintained security at the SCSL since its inception in 2002.
In March 2011, the SCSL consolidated all of its activities to one part of the site of the Court in Freetown. It had already handed over the detention facility to the Sierra Leone Prison Service in May 2010, which is currently being used for female prisoners and children born in custody. As well, almost one year ago, the SCSL transferred its original archives to The Hague, where they are stored by the Government of the Netherlands in the Dutch National Archives. The SCSL’s sub-office in The Hague retains custody over the records, and copies of these archives remain in Freetown. As the space used by the Court becomes smaller, it is handing land back to the Government of Sierra Leone and is liquidating its assets.
Amidst all of this downsizing, the Archiving Unit has been very busy, working to transform the Court’s judicial, financial and administrative records into a permanent archive. After the completion of the Court’s mandate, the Residual Special Court will be responsible for managing the Court’s records.
The Residual SCSL
The Government of Sierra Leone and the UN signed an Agreement on the Establishment of a Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone in August 2010. Article 1.1 of the Residual SCSL Statute states: “The purpose of the Residual Special Court is to carry out the functions of the Special Court for Sierra Leone that must continue after the closure of the Special Court. To that end, the Residual Special Court shall: maintain, preserve and manage its archives, including the archives of the Special Court; provide for witness and victim protection and support; respond to requests for access to evidence by national prosecution authorities; conduct contempt of court proceedings; provide defence counsel and legal aid for conduct of proceedings before the Residual Special Court; respond to requests from national authorities with respect to claims for compensation; and prevent double jeopardy.”
The Residual SCSL will have offices both in Freetown and in the Netherlands. The Freetown office will cover, inter alia, witness protection. Individuals convicted by the SCSL are serving their sentences in Mpanga Prison in Rwanda, and the Residual SCSL is tasked with continuing to work with Rwanda Prison Services to ensure that international standards are maintained, until all sentences are served.
Legacy of the SCSL
The Report outlines a number of interesting and important SCSL legacy projects. For example:
  • A Peace Museum is proposed for the site of the SCSL. The Peace Museum will narrate the story of Sierra Leone’s decade-long armed conflict and return to peace. It is to open officially in 2012, and the Government of Sierra Leone and the SCSL are working together on the project, which is funded at $195,000 by the UN Peacebuilding Fund. The Museum may contain copies of the SCSL archives and might also contain the records of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Commission for Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration. The Museum will be an independent national institution.
  • The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is involved in training local police prosecutors in basics of prosecutorial and advocacy skills, strategy and ethics, as well as victim/witness and case management.
  • The OTP is also involved in the development of the Sierra Leone Legal Information Institute, which will provide free online access to Sierra Leonean primary legal materials. A pilot website has been developed –www.sierraleonelii.org - and the OTP is currently working with a number of Sierra Leonean stakeholders to determine a long-term sustainability plan.
  • The OTP is working together with the OTPs of the ICTY, ICTR, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and Special Tribunal for Lebanon to document recommended practices for use by practitioners of international criminal and humanitarian law at the international and domestic levels.
  • The Registry continues its work with the Sierra Leonean Police to establish a National Witness Protection Unit, which would not only assist in protecting SCSL witnesses after the completion of the SCSL mandate, but would assist in national cases dealing with organized crime, corruption and gender-based crime.
  • The Registry is also involved in training staff from national institutions on archive management, as well as domestic law graduates on Court practices.
In sum, the Report indicates that the past year has been a busy one for the SCSL. Tomorrow, this post will look more closely at the issues of the Court’s transition to the Residual SCSL and the legacy of the SCSL.

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