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Tuesday, 18 January 2022, RSCSL Premises / Sierra Leone Peace Museum New England, Freetown, Sierra Leone

The Centre for International Law and Policy in Africa (CILPA) and the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone (RSCSL) convened a Twentieth Anniversary Commemoration and Formal Opening of the Peace Museum Memorial Garden on 18 January 2022, in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

On 16 January 2002, the United Nations and the Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone signed an historic agreement providing for the establishment of a Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). This happened two days before the burning of arms on 18 January, to mark the end of the 11-year armed conflict. The mandate of the SCSL was to prosecute those persons bearing greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law as well Sierra Leonean law committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone after 30 November 1996.

The SCSL would go on to investigate, prosecute and convict several leaders from the three main warring factions in the Sierra Leone conflict as well as the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor. Most of the convicts received lengthy prison sentences. All but one of them was transferred to Rwanda to serve their sentences, pursuant to an enforcement of sentence agreement between the SCSL and the Government of Rwanda. In addition to its trials, which were completed in December 2013, the SCSL is widely recognized for introducing a more credible hybrid or mixed ad hoc tribunal model of accountability for international crimes and for its contribution of important judicial precedents to the development of international criminal law and justice.

16 January 2022 marked the twentieth anniversary of the signing, in the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown, of the first bilateral treaty between the United Nations and one of its member states providing for the innovative a) establishment of an ad hoc penal tribunal to prosecute atrocity crimes, b) using a mix of national and international law, as well as c) employing a mix of national and international prosecutors, judges and staff. On that occasion, the RSCSL and CILPA  convened a commemoration of that historic moment as well as the end of the war in the march forward for the rule of law in Sierra Leone.

The twentieth anniversary was also be an opportunity for victims associations as well as high level Sierra Leonean government and United Nations officials, and members of the diplomatic community, academia and civil society, to mark the completion and opening of the memorial garden located in the former SCSL premises in New England. It provided a chance to reflect on and take stock of the accomplishments and legacy of the SCSL as well as to honor the memory of the many victims of the notoriously brutal Sierra Leonean conflict which lasted between March 1991 and January 2002.

The event heard from representatives of Parties to the Agreement, with UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary representing the United Nations, and Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Anthony Y. Brewah representing the Government of Sierra Leone. Justice Jon Kamanda, the President of the Residual Special Court, gave the welcoming statement on behalf of the Court and the Judges. Welcoming and opening remarks were given by RSCSL Registrar Binta Mansaray, and CILPA founder Prof. Charles C. Jalloh. Other keynote speakers were David M. Crane, the Special Court’s first Prosecutor, Simone Monasebian, the Special Court’s first Principal Defender, and Madam Musu Jatu Ruhle, the ambassador of Liberia to Sierra Leone and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.