No signs of victim compensation in Sierra Leone 18 Nov 2010
Chief Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Brenda Hollis deplores the lack of assistance for victims.

On 17 November 2010, Chief Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), Brenda Hollis cautioned against optimism that the end of the Charles Taylor trial would lead to victim compensation.

At an evening lecture at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut in The Hague, the Prosecutor nevertheless spoke of the example that the Taylor trial sets for the possibility of trying former senior political leaders, in spite of prevailing challenges.

Charles Taylor is the former President of Liberia charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for crimes perpetrated during the civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone. The Defence recently rested its case in the proceedings in which testimony from more than one hundred witnesses brought evidence of the bloody campaign waged by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, characterised by the use of child soldiers and the cutting off of limbs.

Property, proceeds and assets acquired unlawfully

On the opening day of the trial against Charles Taylor, the Prosecution placed the accused at the centre of a systematic campaign of terror waged against civilians in Sierra Leone after 30 November 1996. According to the Prosecutor, even after a Judgment is delivered in the case sometime around the summer of 2011, compensation for victims will not be forthcoming. Part of the problem, according to the Prosecutor, lies with the difficulties facing the UN team investigating Charles Taylor’s alleged funds, though the Prosecutor also labelled the lack of help provided to victims by the ‘international community’ as little short of a “disgrace”.

In Sierra Leone many people continue to suffer the aftereffects of the long civil war, with visible signs on the streets of Freetown of the forced amputations that took place. However, unlike Article 75 of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Statute for the SCSL does not specifically provide for victim reparations. Nevertheless, as with Article 77(2)(b) of the Rome Statute, the SCSL does have the power under Article 19(3) to order the forfeiture of the property, proceeds and assets of a convicted person to their rightful owner, if acquired unlawfully or by criminal conduct. This penalty can only be invoked after a conviction.

Under the Lomé Peace Agreement a reparations program was established to address the needs of victims of the war in Sierra Leone, with the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) designated in 2007 as the implementing agency. Despite some progress in community-based and capacity-building projects, the Commission has suffered from chronic under-funding.

Charles Taylor has denied all of the charges against him and in testifying in his own defence, has rejected the allegations that he provided logistical and financial support for the RUF.

Research file: Charles Taylor

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