Special Court for Sierra Leone

Liberian President Charles Taylor shown seated at the courtroom of the Special Court for Sierra Leone AP photo, July 21, 2006The Special Court for Sierra Leone, located in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has authority to prosecute "those who bear the greatest responsibility" for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and violations of Sierra Leonean law committed in Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996.

After Sierra Leonean President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah requested that the United Nations form a court to try those responsible, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1315 calling for the Secretary-General to begin discussions with the Government of Sierra Leone to create a Special Court. The Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations signed an agreement establishing the Court on January 16, 2002.

The conflict in Sierra Leone began when the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), a group of renegade soldiers from the Sierra Leonean Army, overthrew the Government of Sierra Leone in 1997. The AFRC subsequently entered into an alliance and joined forces with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group that invaded Sierra Leone from Liberia in 1991, with support from Charles Taylor, who, at the time of the RUF invasion, was the leader of a Liberian armed faction known as the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. A third Sierra Leonean armed faction, the Civil Defense Forces (CDF), was a group of pro-government paramilitary forces that fought against the combined forces of the AFRC and the RUF.

All three Sierra Leonean armed factions – the AFRC, the RUF, and the CDF – were accused of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law. Charles Taylor, who became President of Liberia in 1997, was accused of planning, instigating, ordering, and otherwise aiding and abetting war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed by the AFRC and RUF, or failing to prevent AFRC and RUF forces under his command and control from committing such crimes. Eight leaders from the three armed factions were convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 25-52 years. Three leaders died before their convictions were confirmed on appeal.

Pursuant to the Special Court's request, the United Nations Security Council agreed on June 16, 2006 to move the trial of Charles Taylor to The Hague for security reasons. His trial, which began in 2007, ended with his conviction in April 2012 and sentencing to 50 years in prison. The Taylor defense team announced that he will appeal his conviction. Taylor was the first former head of state convicted by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials in Germany after World War II.

Please click below to be directed to the Internet site of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Please note, however, that links to non-U.S. Government Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of those sites or the information contained therein.

Special Court for Sierra Leone