Sierra Leone

More funds needed for UN-backed court in Sierra Leone, official says

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Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro joined officials from the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone today in appealing for an additional $60 million to complete the Court's work by the end of 2009.

"It is imperative that the international community continues to generously support the Special Court, ensuring that it has both the human and financial resources to conclude its mandate," Ms. Migiro told the 15-member Security Council, as it met to consider the Court's work.

The Special Court, established on 16 January 2002 by an agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN, is mandated to try "those who bear greatest responsibility" for war crimes and crimes against community committed in the country after 30 November 1996.

The projected budget for completing the Court's work by the end of 2009 is $89 million. If the Court is to adhere to its completion strategy, it is vital to assure adequate financial support, particularly as available funds will be exhausted by November this year, according to Court officials.

Four trials are currently before the Special Court, three of which are taking place in Freetown, and the other - the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor - at The Hague.

Mr. Taylor is facing 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including mass murder, mutilations, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers, for his role in the decade-long civil war that engulfed Sierra Leone, which borders Liberia.

The Special Court offers hope future generations "a hope that in the affairs of men and women of all nations, the rule of law may prevail and that those whose deeds offend the conscience of mankind shall not go unpunished," said Ms. Migiro.

The Taylor trial marks "a watershed event for international justice," the Court's Prosecutor, Stephen Rapp, told the Council.

It shows that "no matter how high the position of the person responsible, there will be a day of justice," he added.

Noting that the Court's importance goes beyond the completion of its legal proceedings, its President, Justice George Gelaga King, said its establishment represented a major contribution to long-term peace and security in Sierra Leone and the region.

"The Court has contributed greatly to the efforts being made in Sierra Leone to resurrect the rule of law and to end impunity," he stated.