African News

The Patriotic Vanguard Makes Media History

By  | 1 June 2007 at 01:39 | 783 views

Teddy Foday Musa, our correspondent in Holland (also known as the Netherlands) was the only journalist representing a Sierra Leonean news organ at a press conference at the Hague, Thursday May 31.

"The Patriotic Vanguard has made history, I am the only Sierra Leonean journalist here apart from Moriba, a Special Court press officer", Teddy enthusiastically told editor Gibril Koroma on the line from the Hague where former Liberian president Charles Taylor will soon go on trial. He added the the Liberian media were conspiciously absent making him very visible among the group of largely Western journalists assembled to listen to Special Court prosecutor Stephen Rapp.

"Almost everybody is asking for my business card, asking me questions about Liberia and Sierra Leone," Teddy said.

The following information on the Special Court and the Charles Taylor trial was released at the press briefing among other documents:

Background on the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL)

The SCSL was established by an agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone as an independent international criminal tribunal.

The SCSL is the only international tribunal to sit in the country where the crimes under its jurisdiction took place.

The mandate of the SCSL is to prosecute “persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November, 1996”.

The first trial began in June 2004. There are currently 4 trials at the Special Court, including the trial of Charles Taylor in The Hague. All judicial activity is expected to be completed by December 2009.

A Management Committee was established to assist the UN Secretary-General in obtaining adequate funding for the Court, approving the budget, and advises on policy directions and on all non-judicial functions of the Court. The Committee is chaired by Canada, and its members include the United Nations, Sierra Leone, Canada, Nigeria, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Unlike other international criminal tribunals, the SCSL is funded by voluntary contributions from interested states.

The SCSL currently employs over 300 staff, of which over 50 percent are Sierra Leonean nationals.

The Charles Taylor Trial

On 29 March 2006, former Liberian President Charles Taylor was transferred into the custody of the SCSL.

On 3 April 2006, Taylor made his initial appearance where he was formally arraigned on an 11-count indictment and pleaded “not guilty” to all counts.

On 20 June 2006, Charles Taylor was transferred from Sierra Leone to The Netherlands, following the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1688 (2006), which noted “that at present the trial of former President Taylor cannot be conducted within the sub-region due to the security implications if he is held in Freetown at the Special Court”.

The trial of Charles Taylor will be held at the premises of the International Criminal Court but remains under the exclusive jurisdiction of the SCSL.

All operations in The Hague are supported from Freetown and all costs associated with the Taylor trial will be borne exclusively by the SCSL.

The start date of the trial is 4 June 2007.

The trial is expected to last until December 2008, with a judgement by mid 2009 and an appeal judgement by the end of 2009.

The Accessibility of the Charles Taylor Trial

The SCSL is conducting extensive outreach activities in order to ensure that the Taylor trial in The Hague is accessible to the people of Sierra Leone and the West African region. Activities include:

-  Facilitating Local Media Coverage of the Charles Taylor Trial is conducted by the SCSL.

-  The SCSL is coordinating with the BBC World Service Trust and Search for Common Ground to facilitate the presence of Sierra Leonean and Liberian journalists in The Hague to report on the Taylor trial. Information on the Taylor trial will be broadcast throughout Sierra Leone and Liberia in collaboration with the Outreach Section of the Special Court.

-  Work is underway to expand outreach activities of the Court to Liberia and Guinea.

-  SCSL facilitates the presence of civil society representatives at the Taylor trial.

-  Transmission of the Proceedings from The Hague to Freetown via Video Link and with summaries distributed throughout Sierra Leone and Liberia via DVD media.

-  There are plans to make the trial also accessible to the francophone West African region through translation of summaries of the proceedings.

Progress of Trials in Freetown

Three trials are currently underway in Freetown before the two Trial Chambers.

The trial of the three accused in the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) was concluded on
28 November 2006. The judgment will be issued in June or July 2007.

The trial of the three accused in the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was concluded on 7 December 2006. The judgment will be issued on 20 June 2007.

The trial of the three accused in the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) is currently in the defence stage. It is estimated that trial proceedings will be completed by the end of 2007 with trial judgment during the first half of 2008.

Appeals are expected to last for about 6 months each, with the last being completed by the end of 2008.

Outreach and Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

The Special Court is running a very ambitious outreach programme that includes town hall meetings, radio programmes, video screenings of trials and various training programmes that targets and promotes the participation of all Sierra Leoneans in all aspects of its work.

The SCSL seeks to leave a lasting legacy in Sierra Leone and the West African region in terms of jurisprudence, expertise and physical facilities. Additionally, the SCSL seeks to yield concrete benefits to the national judicial system.

The SCSL has identified a number of outreach and legacy oriented projects and is seeking to fund them through grants from private foundations.

Budget and Funding for Court Operations

The Special Court is funded by voluntary contributions from the international community.

According to the completion budget, that covers the operations of the Court from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2009, SCSL needs 89 million to conclude its operations (36 million for 2007; 33 million for 2008; and 20 million for 2009).

The SCSL currently available funding will be exhausted by November 2007.

Photo: The Patritotic Vangaurd’s Teddy Foday Musa, right, and Peter Andersen, the Special Court’s Chief of Public Affairs.