U.S. Provides $4.5M to Fund Special Court for Sierra Leone Trial of Charles Taylor

On November 22 the Department of State released a $4.5 million grant for FY2011 to the Special Court of Sierra Leone.  This grant demonstrates the U.S. commitment to ensuring that those most responsible for the atrocities committed during the war in Sierra Leone are brought to justice.  This grant was expedited due to the financial crisis the Court is currently facing. By all calculations, the Court would have run out of money by early December which could have jeopardized the continuation of the Charles Taylor trial before the Court reached a verdict.  


The Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996.


The SCSL indicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor and 12 others for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2003, due to their involvement in and support of some of the worst atrocities in Sierra Leone’s civil war. The trials of three former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), of two members of the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) and three former leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have been completed, including appeals, leaving only the trial of Charles Taylor (two indictees died before the trial stage).


On June 16, 2006, the trial of Charles Taylor was transferred to The Hague because Taylor’s continued presence and trial in Freetown represented an impediment to stability in the sub-region, a threat to the peace of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and a threat to international peace and security in the region. The trial of Charles Taylor is close to completion; the defense evidence concluded on November 12 and a trial judgment is due in mid-2011 with an appeal to be resolved by early 2012.


The trial of Charles Taylor is of enormous historical and legal significance as he is the first African head of state to be brought before an international tribunal to face charges for mass atrocities and gross violations of international humanitarian law. The Taylor prosecution delivers a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities, including those in positions of power that they will be held accountable. It is imperative the international community prevents the Taylor trial from being suspended due to lack of financial resources, which is why the United States rushed its FY2011 contribution to the Court. We hope other donor states will follow our lead and find ways to financially support the Court until it has finished its mandate and justice has been served.

As a major donor to the Special Court, the United States serves on the Special Court’s Management Committee in New York.  To date, the United States has contributed $81,189,445 amount to the Special Court.

Photograph: United Photos/Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/EPA


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