- The special court prosecuting the main perpetrators of Sierra Leone's brutal civil war is urging for more support from the UN and its member nations, who founded the court. Despite earlier promises, the court is now lacking funds to continue operations after 30 June and the international community has been unwilling to extradite prime war criminals.
The special court established by the UN 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 Security Council's support in maintaining security and securing the transfer of indictees still at large.
These indictees in particular included 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. Nigeria has been unwilling to extradite Mr Taylor - despite its obligations regarding international law - and this view is shared by most West African governments.
Mr Ayoola emphasised that a delay in the transfer and trial of Mr Taylor would have "a negative impact" on the court's completion strategy, as well as funding and security arrangements. Also, the importance of trying Mr Taylor could "not be overemphasized, because of the strong impact their trials would have on the perception of the court ... as well as on the court's contribution to combating the culture of impunity."
The representative urged for stronger support for the court's work. "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 US$ 54.9 million in voluntary contributions against a four-year budget of US$ 104 million, and there was currently no assurance of funds beyond the end of 2005. Mr Ayoola said that there were no funds secured for the court's operations after 30 June.
In regard to security, he said that 20 percent of the Special Court's budget was devoted to protecting witnesses and other arrangements to locate the trials in the county 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, the Security Council reiterated its "strong support" for the court and welcomed the progress it had achieved. The Council urged all UN member states to consider making pledges of voluntary contributions to allow the court to complete its mandate in a timely manner, but made no promise of further funds for the court.
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