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UK Mission to the United Nations

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London 19:02, 02 Jan 2013
New York 14:02, 02 Jan 2013

"The completion of the trial of Charles Taylor by the Special Court was a landmark for international justice."

09 October 2012

Statement by Ambassador Michael Tatham of the UK Mission to the UN to the Security Council briefing by the President and Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
Michael Tatham

Mr President,

In September 2000, with the adoption of resolution 1315, the Council demonstrated its commitment to the fight against impunity and the restoration of peace and security in Sierra Leone. Given its deep concern that serious violations of international humanitarian law had been committed in Sierra Leone, the Council was determined to bring those responsible to account in accordance with international standards of justice, fairness and due process of law.  The Council requested the Secretary-General to work with the Government of Sierra Leone to establish an independent special court to prosecute those persons bearing the greatest responsibility for the commission of those crimes, including those leaders who threatened the peace process in Sierra Leone.

Today, as we have heard from the President and the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, that vital task is almost complete.  The United Kingdom congratulates the Special Court for its significant achievements, and we thank the President and the Prosecutor for their briefings.  We are also grateful to Guatemala for convening this meeting during its Presidency.  Like you, Mr President, the United Kingdom believes it is important and timely to take stock of the progress made by the Special Court – to acknowledge how much it has achieved and to better understand the tasks that remain.

The United Kingdom looks forward to September 2013, when the Special Court is due to become the first modern war crimes tribunal to successfully complete its mandate.  We do not underestimate the complexity and significance of the appellate proceedings in the case against Charles Taylor.

The United Kingdom strongly believes that the completion of the trial of Charles Taylor by the Special Court was a landmark for international justice.  As the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom said at the time, the trial proceedings played an important role in helping the people of Sierra Leone come to terms with the past and consolidate national reconciliation. And it is heartening to hear from the President of the Special Court, that the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia feel so strongly that the Special Court has contributed to bringing peace in their countries. The Special Court’s prosecution of Charles Taylor sends a strong message that the international community will not allow serious crimes to be committed with impunity.  And it signals that the reach of international justice is long and patient.

Since its inception in 2002, the United Kingdom has been a leading supporter of the Special Court.  UK funding has reached approximately $44 million and accounts for some 20 percent of the Court’s voluntary contributions to date.  This includes a contribution of almost $1 million in March this year.  And we re-affirm our commitment to imprison Charles Taylor in the United Kingdom, if the Appeals Chamber upholds his conviction and if the President asks us to do so.  Our support for the Special Court will remain strong long after the Taylor appeal and the high profile work of the Special Court has come to an end.  

But the achievements of the Special Court do not begin and end with Charles Taylor in The Hague.  The United Kingdom commends the Special Court in Freetown for successfully completing three important trials of eight former rebel leaders and conducting five contempt proceedings.

Furthermore, the Special Court’s invaluable role in building the capacity of the Sierra Leonean legal system will certainly be a lasting legacy.  So will the Special Court’s vital outreach programmes which have made its work accessible to many people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, contributing to reconciliation and raising awareness of important issues such as child soldiers and sexual violence in armed conflict.  We welcome the way in which the court has developed gender-sensitive approaches to witness support and outreach in partnership with local women’s organisations and resources.

But the United Kingdom cannot fail to acknowledge the Special Court’s serious and challenging financial circumstances.  Funding shortfalls risk the completion of appellate proceedings in the Taylor case.  Funds are needed urgently.  Longer-term, the Residual Special Court requires secure and sustainable funding in order to continue to protect witnesses, manage the detention of those convicted and protect the archives.  The United Kingdom is considering all funding options for the Special Court and the Residual Special Court and we urge other members of the Council, and all Member States, to do so as well.

Mr President, the United Kingdom applauds the Special Court for its ground breaking achievements.  We remain ready to support the Special Court as it completes its mandate and in order to ensure its legacy is preserved.

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