Annual Report: Sierra Leone 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Sierra Leone 2011

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However, fewer than a dozen of those responsible for hundreds of thousands of crimes under international law were held to account by the SCSL, and most perpetrators went unpunished. The Lomé Accord of 1999 contains an amnesty provision for those responsible for crimes under international law committed in Sierra Leone. This is not a bar to prosecution before the SCSL, but prevails under Sierra Leonean law, so no investigations or trials for crimes committed in the civil war took place before national courts in Sierra Leone.

Concerns also remained regarding the SCSL's inaccessibility to the public, its cost management and slowness, selective justice, inadequate legacy programmes (to rebuild the local justice system and strengthen local institutions), and failure to prosecute corporate actors such as diamond dealers. In 2010, as the SCSL was establishing a policy on access to its archives, concerns were raised that the policy could be overly restrictive and might not allow prosecutors to use the archives to pursue war criminals in other jurisdictions such as Liberia.

Political violence

The threat of political and ethnic violence between supporters of the two main political parties, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and the All People's Congress (APC), grew ahead of elections in 2012. Violence and human rights abuses that occurred during the previous election in 2007, and after the APC victory in 2007, still had not been prosecuted or punished, although a judicial commission found that abuses did take place. Youth supporting the SLPP, the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) and the APC clashed throughout 2009 and again in mid-2010.

A 2010 initiative by the government to launch a Commission of Inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial execution of 26 people by the government in 1992 increased divisions along political and ethnic lines, as did the gradual replacement of roughly 200 high-level government professionals from the southern and eastern provinces with primarily northern APC supporters. With some major political parties adopting regional and ethnic opinions in their campaigns, 2010 saw a resurgence in identity politics and the sharpening of ethnic and party divisions along APC and SLPP lines.

Perceived ethnic and political biases in the police and army also increased mistrust and hostility. Doubts were raised about the independence of the army and tensions were reported in the ranks. In addition, the ruling APC co-opted "youth leaders" and recruited a number of ex-militia combatants - some implicated in serious attacks on political opponents - to join the Operational Support Division (OSD) of the police. Fears rose that if this practice continued, the opposition might similarly recruit from among the thousands of resettled former fighters, posing a grave threat to the country's medium and long-term security.

Death penalty

Sierra Leone was reviewing its Constitution, and the latest draft apparently retained the death penalty. A new death sentence was passed in the High Court in Kenema in November. A member of the military convicted In August 2009 after a court martial for a killing was sentenced to death by firing squad but the President had not signed the death sentence by the end of the year. Ten men and three women remained on death row.