Arusha, October 10, 2012 (FH) - The Special Court for Sierra Leon (SCSL) plans to close by end of next year, the Court’s President, Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

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“After a final judgment was delivered in appellate proceedings in the case of (Charles) Taylor, the Court would transition to residual status and close its doors,” the UN News Centre quotes the President as saying when presenting her 2011-2012 report to the UN body.

“It will be the first international criminal tribunal to do so,” Fisher continued, as she was summarizing a report on the Court’s activities, achievements and the completion of its mandate.

According to the report, in light of the volume of the Trial Judgment and the complexity of the Charles Taylor case, the 18th Plenary Meeting of Judges predicted that the appeals judgment would be delivered in September 2013.

On May 30, 2012, the SCSL convicted Taylor of war crimes and crimes against humanity for aiding and abetting rebels during Sierra Leone's civil war, becoming the first former head of state to be convicted by an international war crimes court. He was sentenced to 50 years in jail.

Both the defence and prosecution have appealed against the verdict. Taylor seeks reversal of his conviction, while the prosecution is challenging his acquittal on more serious charges and is urging an increased sentence of 80 years behind bars.

The Security Council commended the Court’s important contribution to international criminal justice, as well as its role in strengthening stability in West Africa and “bringing an end to impunity”.

It urged the international community to continue supporting the Court as it moved into its final stage of work, and emphasized the vital need for further pledges of voluntary contributions to allow the completion of its mandate in a timely manner. 

The Council also called on Member States to contribute generously towards implementation of the agreement on establishing the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone for supervision of enforcement of sentences for convicts, protection of witnesses and preservation of archives.

The court was established in 2002 to prosecute those most responsible for atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's 10-year civil war. It is an independent tribunal set up jointly by the UN and the government of Sierra Leone.