The Process of Restorative Justice in Sierra Leone

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Q&A with Emmanuel Roberts

The government of Sierra Leone requested that UN Security Council establish an international tribunal to prosecute individuals responsible for committing atrocities in the country’s brutal civil war, which broke out in 1991 and remains unresolved despite the Lomé Peace Accord of July 1999. This request was made in hopes that such prosecutions would help to break the ongoing cycle of violence and promote reconciliation.

On March 30, 2001, the Security Council adopted a Resolution which encouraged the Government of Sierra Leone, together with the Secretary General of the UN, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant international actors, to expedite the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). On 22nd November 2000, the Parliament of Sierra Leone unanimously passed into law the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  It was meant to work alongside the international criminal tribunal, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).

Have these institutions contributed to Restorative Justice in Sierra Leone?

So far, the TRC has compiled stories, reports and recommendations that have yet to be implemented.  Restorative justice faces many obstacles because many offenders have never been caught, prosecuted or convicted and those who have been convicted are often poorly monitored. The TRC has been criticized for being punitive rather than serving as alternatives to incarceration which affirms the offender’s self-worth, giving him/her the opportunity to “make things right.”

The mandate of the SCSL required that credible justice be brought to those members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) and their accomplices responsible for committing crimes against the people of Sierra Leone. The SCSL has incarcerated high profile people including (Charles Taylor, the former President of the Republic of Liberia and late Chief Sam Hinga Norman both of whom were responsible for crimes against humanity. The TRC is also charged with addressing impunity, responding to the needs of victims, promoting healing and reconciliation and stopping human rights violations and abuses in addition to investigating and report on the “antecedents” of the conflict.

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