Special Court for Sierra Leone

Special Court for Sierra Leone

Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2013

United States views on international law [1] in relation to Special Court for Sierra Leone: On September 26, 2013, the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a decision upholding the conviction of former President of Liberia Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Secretary Kerry issued a press statement, below, available at (link resource) (Secretary of State website) state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/09/214823.htm.

Some Aspects of Special Court for Sierra Leone

Today’s ruling upholding the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor marks a milestone for the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, and for international criminal justice. In holding Charles Taylor accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court of Sierra Leone has brought a measure of justice to the people of Sierra Leone, and helped to cement the foundation on which reconciliation can proceed. This fight against impunity for the worst crimes known to humankind is personal for me. The last piece of legislation I helped to pass as a Senator expanded and modernized the State Department’s War Crimes Rewards Program. As I was awaiting confirmation to become U.S. Secretary of State, the bill came to President Obama’s desk and he signed it into law. We need tools like this to help ensure that criminals like Charles Taylor answer for their crimes. I am proud of the role that the United States played in drafting and negotiating UN Security Council Resolution 1315 (2000), which paved the way for the Special Court that convicted Taylor and has now brought its trials and appeals to a close. The United States has been a strong supporter of the Court and its work for a simple reason: We refuse to accept a world where those responsible for crimes of this magnitude live in impunity.

United States Views

By John B. Bellinger, III, Legal Adviser to the United States Secretary of State (2008):

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (…) represents a hybrid model of international criminal justice – and the first of its kind – in that it combines local and international components. Unlike the ICTY and the ICTR, which were created directly by the Security Council through Chapter VII resolutions, the Special Court was established through an agreement between the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone, undertaken by the UN Secretary General in accordance with a resolution of the UN Security Council. The court has jurisdiction to prosecute crimes under both Sierra Leonean and international law, and includes judges appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone and by the UN Secretary General.

The United States has been the Special Court’s principal supporter. Here, however, the court’s funding consists entirely of voluntary contributions from the international community. The United States has provided approximately $60 million in funds to-date – which is roughly forty percent of all voluntary contributions to the court and more than the total funds provided by the next three largest contributors combined. The United States has also provided extensive technical and political support to the Special Court. Although we are not under a legal obligation to assist the Special Court as we are the ICTY and the ICTR, we have nevertheless cooperated with the Special Court in the same manner.

Last year saw the start of the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in The Hague. This was a significant moment: Taylor is the first African president to be indicted by an international court for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious international crimes. The United States went to extraordinary lengths to help locate Taylor, bring him to Liberia, and facilitate his trial. Secretary Rice was personally instrumental in these efforts, and I remember personally calling ICC President Philippe Kirsch to tell him we had no objection to the use of ICC facilities for the trial. Although we do have concerns about the ICC, which I will discuss in a moment, we do not have concerns about the use of its bricks and mortar.

We were disappointed that European countries, when asked to incarcerate Taylor if convicted, were reluctant to help. Some countries are vocal about international criminal justice, and are quick to criticize the United States over the ICC, but have often failed to take concrete action themselves to support the work of the other international tribunals. Tony Blair is to be applauded for cutting through the red tape and agreeing to take Taylor, if convicted.

Special Court for Sierra Leone

Embracing mainstream international law, this section on special court for sierra leone explores the context, history and effect of the area of the law covered here.


Further Reading

  • The entry “special court for sierra leone” in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (currently, the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law, 2009), Oxford University Press



  1. Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Digest of United States Practice in International Law