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Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice
Special Court Task Force
Statute for the Special Court
16 January 2002, as amended
STATUTE OF THE SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE
Having been established by an Agreement between the United Nations and
the Government of Sierra Leone pursuant to Security Council resolution
1315 (2000) of 14 August 2000, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (hereinafter
"the Special Court") shall function in accordance with the provisions of
the present Statute.
Competence of the Special Court
1. The Special Court shall, except as provided in subparagraph (2), have the power 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, including those leaders who, in committing such crimes, have threatened the establishment of and implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone.
2. Any transgressions by peacekeepers and related personnel present in Sierra Leone pursuant to the Status of Mission Agreement in force between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone or agreements between Sierra Leone and other Governments or regional organizations, or, in the absence of such agreement, provided that the peacekeeping operations were undertaken with the consent of the Government of Sierra Leone, shall be within the primary jurisdiction of the sending State.
3. In the event the sending State is unwilling or unable genuinely to
carry out an investigation or prosecution, the Court may, if authorized
by the Security Council on the proposal of any State, exercise jurisdiction
over such persons.
Crimes against humanity
The Special Court shall have the power to prosecute persons who committed the following crimes as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population:
(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy and any other form of sexual violence;
(h) Persecution on political, racial, ethnic or religious grounds;
(i) Other inhumane acts.
Violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva
Conventions and of Additional Protocol II
The Special Court shall have the power to prosecute persons who committed or ordered the commission of serious violations of article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 for the Protection of War Victims, and of Additional Protocol II thereto of 8 June 1977. These violations shall include:
(a) Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons,
in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation
or any form of corporal punishment;
(b) Collective punishments;
(c) Taking of hostages;
(d) Acts of terrorism;
(e) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault;
(g) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples;
(h) Threats to commit any of the foregoing acts.
Other serious violations of international humanitarian law
The Special Court shall have the power to prosecute persons who committed the following serious violations of international humanitarian law:
(a) Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities;
(b) Intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under the international law of armed conflict;
(c) Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into
armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Crimes under Sierra Leonean law
The Special Court shall have the power to prosecute persons who have committed the following crimes under Sierra Leonean law:
(a) Offences relating to the abuse of girls under the Prevention of
Cruelty to Children Act, 1926 (Cap. 31):
(i) Abusing a girl under 13 years of age, contrary to section 6;
(ii) Abusing a girl between 13 and 14 years of age, contrary to section 7;
(iii) Abduction of a girl for immoral purposes, contrary to section 12.
(b) Offences relating to the wanton destruction of property under the
Malicious Damage Act, 1861:
(i) Setting fire to dwelling - houses, any person being therein, contrary to section 2;
(ii) Setting fire to public buildings, contrary to sections 5 and 6;
(iii) Setting fire to other buildings, contrary to section 6.
Individual criminal responsibility
1. A person who planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of a crime referred to in articles 2 to 4 of the present Statute shall be individually responsible for the crime.
2. The official position of any accused persons, whether as Head of State or Government or as a responsible government official, shall not relieve such person of criminal responsibility nor mitigate punishment.
3. The fact that any of the acts referred to in articles 2 to 4 of the present Statute was committed by a subordinate does not relieve his or her superior of criminal responsibility if he or she knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such acts or had done so and the superior had failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof.
4. The fact that an accused person acted pursuant to an order of a Government or of a superior shall not relieve him or her of criminal responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Special Court determines that justice so requires.
5. Individual criminal responsibility for the crimes referred to in
article 5 shall be determined in accordance with the respective laws of
Jurisdiction over persons of 15 years of age
1. The Special Court shall have no jurisdiction over any person who was under the age of 15 at the time of the alleged commission of the crime. Should any person who was at the time of the alleged commission of the crime between 15 and 18 years of age come before the Court, he or she shall be treated with dignity and a sense of worth, taking into account his or her young age and the desirability of promoting his or her rehabilitation, reintegration into and assumption of a constructive role in society, and in accordance with international human rights standards, in particular the rights of the child.
2. In the disposition of a case against a juvenile offender, the Special
Court shall order any of the following: care guidance and supervision orders,
community service orders, counselling, foster care, correctional, educational
and vocational training programmes, approved schools and, as appropriate,
any programmes of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration or programmes
of child protection agencies.
1. The Special Court and the national courts of Sierra Leone shall have concurrent jurisdiction.
2. The Special Court shall have primacy over the national courts of
Sierra Leone. At any stage of the procedure, the Special Court may
formally request a national court to defer to its competence in accordance
with the present Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.
Non bis in idem
1. No person shall be tried before a national court of Sierra Leone for acts for which he or she has already been tried by the Special Court.
2. A person who has been tried by a national court for the acts referred to in articles 2 to 4 of the present Statute may be subsequently tried by the Special Court if:
(a) The act for which he or she was tried was characterized as an ordinary crime; or
(b) The national court proceedings were not impartial or independent, were designed to shield the accused from international criminal responsibility or the case was not diligently prosecuted.
3. In considering the penalty to be imposed on a person convicted of
a crime under the present Statute, the Special Court shall take into account
the extent to which any penalty imposed by a national court on the same
person for the same act has already been served.
An amnesty granted to any person falling within the jurisdiction of
the Special Court in respect of the crimes referred to in articles 2 to
4 of the present Statute shall not be a bar to prosecution.
Organization of the Special Court
The Special Court shall consist of the following organs:
(a) The Chambers, comprising one or more Trial Chambers and an Appeals
(b) The Prosecutor; and
(c) The Registry.
Composition of the Chambers
1. The Chambers shall be composed of not less than eight (8) or more than eleven (11) independent judges, who shall serve as follows:
(a) Three judges shall serve in the Trial Chamber, of whom one shall be a judge appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone, and two judges appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations (hereinafter “the Secretary-General”).
(b) Five judges shall serve in the Appeals Chamber, of whom two shall be judges appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone, and three judges appointed by the Secretary-General.
2. Each judge shall serve only in the Chamber to which he or she has been appointed.
3. The judges of the Appeals Chamber and the judges of the Trial Chamber, respectively, shall elect a presiding judge who shall conduct the proceedings in the Chamber to which he or she was elected. The presiding judge of the Appeals Chamber shall be the President of the Special Court.
4. If, at the request of the President of the Special Court, an alternate
judge or judges have been appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone or
the Secretary-General, the presiding judge of a Trial Chamber or the Appeals
Chamber shall designate such an alternate judge to be present at each stage
of the trial and to replace a judge if that judge is unable to continue
Qualification and appointment of judges
1. The judges shall be persons of high moral character, impartiality and integrity who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices. They shall be independent in the performance of their functions, and shall not accept or seek instructions from any Government or any other source.
2. In the overall composition of the Chambers, due account shall be taken of the experience of the judges in international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, criminal law and juvenile justice.
3. The judges shall be appointed for a three-year period and shall be
eligible for reappointment.
Rules of Procedure and Evidence
1. The Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda obtaining at the time of the establishment of the Special Court shall be applicable mutatis mutandis to the conduct of the legal proceedings before the Special Court.
2. The judges of the Special Court as a whole may amend the Rules of
Procedure and Evidence or adopt additional rules where the applicable Rules
do not, or
do not adequately, provide for a specific situation. In so doing, they may be guided, as appropriate, by the Criminal Procedure Act, 1965, of Sierra Leone.
1. The Prosecutor shall be responsible for the investigation and prosecution of persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and crimes under Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996. The Prosecutor shall act independently as a separate organ of the Special Court. He or she shall not seek or receive instructions from any Government or from any other source.
2. The Office of the Prosecutor shall have the power to question suspects, victims and witnesses, to collect evidence and to conduct on-site investigations. In carrying out these tasks, the Prosecutor shall, as appropriate, be assisted by the Sierra Leonean authorities concerned.
3. The Prosecutor shall be appointed by the Secretary-General for a three-year term and shall be eligible for re-appointment. He or she shall be of high moral character and possess the highest level of professional competence, and have extensive experience in the conduct of investigations and prosecutions of criminal cases.
4. The Prosecutor shall be assisted by a Deputy Prosecutor, and by such other Sierra Leonean and international staff as may be required to perform the functions assigned to him or her effectively and efficiently. Given the nature of the crimes committed and the particular sensitivities of girls, young women and children victims of rape, sexual assault, abduction and slavery of all kinds, due consideration should be given in the appointment of staff to the employment of prosecutors and investigators experienced in gender-related crimes and juvenile justice.
5. In the prosecution of juvenile offenders, the Prosecutor shall ensure
that the child-rehabilitation programme is not placed at risk and that,
where appropriate, resort should be had to alternative truth and reconciliation
mechanisms, to the extent of their availability.
1. The Registry shall be responsible for the administration and servicing of the Special Court.
2. The Registry shall consist of a Registrar and such other staff as may be required.
3. The Registrar shall be appointed by the Secretary-General after consultation with the President of the Special Court and shall be a staff member of the United Nations. He or she shall serve for a three-year term and be eligible for re-appointment.
4. The Registrar shall set up a Victims and Witnesses Unit within the
Registry. This Unit shall provide, in consultation with the Office
of the Prosecutor, protective measures and security arrangements, counselling
and other appropriate assistance for witnesses, victims who appear before
the Court and others who are at risk on account of testimony given by such
witnesses. The Unit personnel shall include experts in trauma, including
trauma related to crimes of sexual violence and violence against children.
Rights of the accused
1. All accused shall be equal before the Special Court.
2. The accused shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing, subject to measures ordered by the Special Court for the protection of victims and witnesses.
3. The accused shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the provisions of the present Statute.
4. In the determination of any charge against the accused pursuant to the present Statute, he or she shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:
(a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he or she understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him or her;
(b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his or her defence and to communicate with counsel of his or her own choosing;
(c) To be tried without undue delay;
(d) To be tried in his or her presence, and to defend himself or herself in person or through legal assistance of his or her own choosing; to be informed, if he or she does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him or her, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him or her in any such case if he or she does not have sufficient means to pay for it;
(e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him or her and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his or her behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him or her;
(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he or she cannot understand or speak the language used in the Special Court;
(g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or herself or to
The judgement shall be rendered by a majority of the judges of the Trial
Chamber or of the Appeals Chamber, and shall be delivered in public.
It shall be accompanied by a reasoned opinion in writing, to which separate
or dissenting opinions may be appended.
1. The Trial Chamber shall impose upon a convicted person, other than
a juvenile offender, imprisonment for a specified number of years.
In determining the
terms of imprisonment, the Trial Chamber shall, as appropriate, have recourse to the practice regarding prison sentences in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the national courts of Sierra Leone.
2. In imposing the sentences, the Trial Chamber should take into account such factors as the gravity of the offence and the individual circumstances of the convicted person.
3. In addition to imprisonment, the Trial Chamber may order the forfeiture
of the property, proceeds and any assets acquired unlawfully or by criminal
conduct, and their return to their rightful owner or to the State of Sierra
1. The Appeals Chamber shall hear appeals from persons convicted by the Trial Chamber or from the Prosecutor on the following grounds:
(a) A procedural error;
(b) An error on a question of law invalidating the decision;
(c) An error of fact which has occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
2. The Appeals Chamber may affirm, reverse or revise the decisions taken by the Trial Chamber.
3. The judges of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court shall be guided
by the decisions of the Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunals
for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. In the interpretation and
application of the laws of Sierra Leone, they shall be guided by the decisions
of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone.
1. Where a new fact has been discovered which was not known at the time of the proceedings before the Trial Chamber or the Appeals Chamber and which could have been a decisive factor in reaching the decision, the convicted person or the Prosecutor may submit an application for review of the judgement.
2. An application for review shall be submitted to the Appeals Chamber. The Appeals Chamber may reject the application if it considers it to be unfounded. If it determines that the application is meritorious, it may, as appropriate:
(a) Reconvene the Trial Chamber;
(b) Retain jurisdiction over the matter.
Enforcement of sentences
1. Imprisonment shall be served in Sierra Leone. If circumstances
so require, imprisonment may also be served in any of the States which
have concluded with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda or the
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia an agreement for the enforcement of sentences, and which have indicated to the Registrar of the Special Court their willingness to accept convicted persons. The Special Court may conclude similar agreements for the enforcement of sentences with other States.
2. Conditions of imprisonment, whether in Sierra Leone or in a third
State, shall be governed by the law of the State of enforcement subject
to the supervision of
the Special Court. The State of enforcement shall be bound by the duration of the sentence, subject to article 23 of the present Statute.
Pardon or commutation of sentences
If, pursuant to the applicable law of the State in which the convicted
person is imprisoned, he or she is eligible for pardon or commutation of
sentence, the State concerned shall notify the Special Court accordingly.
There shall only be pardon or
commutation of sentence if the President of the Special Court, in consultation with the judges, so decides on the basis of the interests of justice and the general principles of law.
The working language of the Special Court shall be English.
The President of the Special Court shall submit an annual report on
the operation and activities of the Court to the Secretary-General and
to the Government of Sierra Leone.