Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to welcome to the Council today the President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Shireen Fisher, and the Prosecutor, Brenda Hollis, as well as the Court’s Registrar, Binta Mansaray, and the Head of the Defense Office, Claire Hanciles. Thank you for the briefings and congratulations to you and your staffs for the significant achievements of the Special Court to date. We are grateful for your dedication and commitment to the pursuit of justice. I would also like to thank Guatemala for scheduling this briefing today, and to welcome the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone to the Council.
Today’s briefings come at a pivotal juncture as the Special Court moves toward the end of the final phase of its mandate: the extensive appeals process in the Charles Taylor case. The Special Court has been instrumental in contributing to peace and stability in Sierra Leone. By creating a transparent and independent judicial process, the Court has brought justice and provided accountability for the people of Sierra Leone and helped them move on from a painful chapter in their history and that of the region. The Special Court, moreover, has broken new ground in the field of international criminal law, including through its jurisprudence on the use of child soldiers and its recognition that sexual slavery can be a war crime and crime against humanity. It has also shown a powerful commitment to gender issues and to combating gender-based violence, which we particularly appreciate as we mark the 12th Anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security this month.
Though the trial proceedings in the Charles Taylor case have finished, the work of the Court is not yet done. And so we welcome finalization of the Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone on the establishment of a residual court that will come into existence after the conclusion of the appeals process. Its important responsibilities will include witness protection, investigations and trials for contempt, oversight of prisoners, and handling of archives.
The United States was instrumental in the establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. We have appreciated the opportunity to serve on the Special Court’s Management Committee and commend the work of the Committee’s Canadian chair and UK co-chair. And we are proud to have been the Court’s largest financial supporter, contributing over $83 million since its inception, including a recent $2 million disbursement for fiscal year 2012.
Given these contributions, we especially appreciate the efforts of President Fisher and Registrar Mansaray to reduce costs and improve efficiency in the Special Court’s operations and to lay the groundwork for an efficient and successful Residual Special Court. The United States welcomes the broad financial support that the Court has enjoyed so far. This must continue for the Court to complete its critical mandate. President Fisher has reported a projected budget shortfall of $15 million dollars to conclude the Court’s work. The United States will endeavor to contribute towards closing that gap and urges continued support from the international community to both the Court and the Residual Special Court so that justice is served, impunity is not tolerated, and Sierra Leone and the region can move forward in peace and security.
The Government of Sierra Leone has been a strong and committed partner of the Court, and we fully support the Court’s efforts to transfer its institutional knowledge to Sierra Leone authorities. It is important to the country’s ongoing democratic development that all lessons of the past be fully absorbed. The Special Court has much to offer in this regard. After the Court completes its mandate, the international community will of course continue its support for peacebuilding and long-term socio-economic development in Sierra Leone.
Mr. President, the Special Court has built a powerful legacy of fighting against impunity and working to bring justice to the people of Sierra Leone. The United States looks forward to the successful completion of the Court’s work and the smooth transition to the Residual Special Court.