By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – The Special Court for Sierra Leone postponed the appeals hearing in the case of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. The hearing was supposed to take place this week, but judges of the Special Court announced that it has now been moved to next year, January 22.
A possible reason for the postponement of Taylor’s appeals hearing is inadequate funding. According to recent press releases from the UN, the Special Court for Sierra Leone only has enough money alloted until the end of October 2012 since it never had a fixed annual budget from the government. By November this year, it will have to depend on pledges and contributions from countries like the United States, Switzerland, and Ireland to continue its work for a month.
If the Special Court will not be able to resolve its financial crisis, human rights groups and international organizations fear that Taylor’s appeal might be compromised. In a recent phone interview, the Special Court’s registrar, Binta Mansaray, said, “it [the appeals] will be affected, definitely, if the money doesn’t come through.”
Mariana Goetz, deputy director of programs at the London-based human rights and torture survivors advocacy organization REDRESS, expressed the same concern on the issue saying that the lack of funds could affect the prosecutor’s and defense counsel’s ability to prepare their teams despite the fact that the appeals briefs for both sides have already been filed and replies are due by the end of October. The lawyers have yet to present the grounds for their appeals in court. The appeals judgment will then follow next fall.
Much is at stake in an unprecedented case like Taylor’s. “It is the first time a head of state is convicted for 11 counts of international crimes, including rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence,” Goetz said in an interview. “This case, as well as others . . . are slowly ensuring that violence against women in the conflict contexts are not laughed off in patriarchal societies as private acts.”
Without the necessary funds, the victims of Charles Taylor will have to wait for justice from the Special Court when the appeals case is finally over. “If we don’t get that funding we can’t fulfill the promises that we make to the people of Sierra Leone,” the Special Court’s president, Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, told the media.
Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon appealed to the Security Council for $14 million to fund Charles Taylor’s appeal. According to him, the unavailability of funds greatly affect the development of good governance in the region. “As I have said before, the legacy of the Special Court and the progress that has been made towards ensuring accountability and restoring peace and security in Sierra Leone and the region would be at risk,” the UN Secretary said.
For further information, please see:
All Africa – Sierra Leone: Taylor Appeals Hearing Postponed – 7 December 2012
Swit Salone – Sierra Leone Special Court is Broke – 6 December 2012
All Africa – Liberia: Appeals Hearing in Taylor Case Postponed – 5 December 2012
Times Live – Former Liberian president Taylor should be a “free man” – judge – 25 November 2012
WeNews – World Court Struggles to Finish Mass Rape Cases – 21 November 2012
All Africa – Liberia: 45 Legal Errors Identify in Taylor’s Verdict – 9 November 2012