Friday, March 04, 2011

Sierra Leone: UN transfers security for Sierra Leone war crimes court to local authorities

The Special Court for Sierra Leone

UN - 3 March 2011 –
The Security Council today authorized the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers protecting the court trying indicted war criminals in Sierra Leone, handing over responsibility to local forces at the request of the Government of the West African country.

Sine 2005, a detachment of troops from the UN Mission in neighbouring Liberia (UNMIL) has ensured security in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, for the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was set up in 2002 to try those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the civil wars that plagued the country, starting in 1996.

In a unanimous resolution, the Council called for the 150 UNMIL troops to be withdrawn by 7 March following the training of local security personnel to take over their responsibilities.

In a letter to the 15-member body passing on the Government’s request, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the court’s registrar had informed him that the UNMIL guard force was no longer needed since the evidence and archives have been transferred to The Hague, Netherlands, and its international staff have been reduced accordingly.

In the resolution, the Council asked the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) to include within existing security contingency evacuation arrangements relevant court officials.

The court has indicted 13 people. Eight of these have been sentenced to terms of up to 50 years in prison, while the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor is continuing in a chamber of the court sitting in The Hague for security reasons. Two others died before trial and two more before sentencing.

The war was marked by extreme brutality, including massacres and the severing of arms and legs of living victims.