As the earth contemplates accountability for Vladimir Putin’s worldwide crimes and the Russian Federation’s atrocities versus the citizens of Ukraine, we should try to remember that just 20 yrs in the past, the United Nations Distinctive Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) confirmed the globe the real electric power of the rule of regulation.
On March 10, 2003, the Workplace of the Prosecutor of the SCSL launched what may be the most thriving intercontinental arrest procedure in record. On that working day, more than a time period of 55 minutes, investigators — assisted by the Sierra Leonean Nationwide Police, the UN Peacekeeping Drive, and officers from other nations — arrested most of individuals who bore the greatest duty for war crimes and crimes from humanity in Sierra Leone’s civil war. All of them would never see the mild of a totally free working day once again. Attempted overtly and fairly prior to the men and women of Sierra Leone, they were being all observed guilty of significant international crimes. Most of them remain in prison to this day.
The conflict in Sierra Leone began in 1991 and wasn’t declared officially above right until January 2002. An approximated 50,000 folks died, and the violence affected hundreds of 1000’s of other folks, displacing as many as 2 million.
Among individuals not arrested on March 10, but indicted with the rest of the perpetrators on March 3, 2003, was President Charles Taylor of Liberia. The chief prosecutor resolved that trying to arrest Taylor at that second would lead to too substantially insecurity in the location. Alternatively, Taylor would encounter his indictment in June of that yr, for war crimes and crimes from humanity. He was the first sitting head of point out in the modern day period to be indicted and tried out for violations of international law. Eventually stripped of his titles and humbled right before the regulation, Taylor currently sits in a highest stability jail in the United Kingdom, serving a 50-year sentence for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes versus humanity.
This instant 20 several years ago resonates loudly today close to the planet. The clarion bell of justice rings for action in another portion of the environment — Ukraine — in which Russia’s war considering that Feb. 24, 2022, has led to crimes of aggression against civilians, as properly as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and maybe genocide. The similarity of these two moments in heritage should really give the worldwide neighborhood some hope and assurance wanting ahead: The entire world arrived jointly at the time ahead of, to keep Taylor and his henchmen accountable for atrocities in West Africa, and it unquestionably can do so once again in Ukraine.
The rationale for the unbelievable achievement of the UN Distinctive Court for Sierra Leone was that it was a joint hard work by the United Nations, its member states and Sierra Leone, to prosecute all those who bore the best obligation for war crimes and crimes from humanity in that destroyed portion of the entire world. The mandate was very simple and simple, with powerful political support: an skilled prosecutor’s workplace had a 10-phase strategic approach that deemed the authorized, sensible, political, diplomatic and cultural elements of holding Taylor and the leadership of three warring factions accountable.
Place just, the SCSL realized what it was accomplishing, why it was in West Africa, who to prosecute and why. Properly led and managed, the court akin to “The Minimal Motor That Could” was capable to demonstrate the environment the legitimate power of the regulation in a lawless area.
This model also could effectively hold Putin and his political and navy leaders accountable for the ultimate crime of aggression. A proposed UN Specific Tribunal for Ukraine on the Crime of Aggression, operating in coordination with the Global Felony Courtroom — which is presently investigating Russia’s crimes in Ukraine — could pretty well attain justice and accountability about the next couple of years.
So, let’s move ahead, united, with the know-how of the electricity of the rule of legislation in the worldwide community. There seriously is no greater pathway to peace and global security in 2023.
David M. Crane is founder of the World wide Accountability Community. He was the founding main prosecutor of the U.N. Exclusive Court for Sierra Leone, who investigated, indicted and tried using former president Charles Taylor for global crimes.
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