Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to follow developments in Sierra Leone’s presidential and parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for 11 August. It also is likely to issue a presidential statement on the outcome of the elections.
It is still unclear when the Council will take up the anticipated report from the Secretary-General on the role of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL). Resolution 1734 provides for this report to be submitted to the Council “closer to the election date” to assist it in defining an exit strategy for UNIOSIL (the mandate of UNIOSIL expires on 31 December). However, in S/2007/257 the Secretary-General said that he was planning to submit the report before October.
The presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra-Leone, originally scheduled to take place on 28 July, were postponed to 11 August because the country’s electoral commission indicated that sufficient time was needed between the dissolution of parliament on 25 June and the elections. Also, the new date is expected to provide time to organise the polls, including printing ballots and receiving all nominations. The campaign for the elections commenced on 10 July and on 12 July the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, Victor Angelo, met in Freetown with representatives of the various parties participating in the August polls in an inter-party dialogue to deliberate on preparations for the elections and related confidence-building measures.
The war-crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone commenced on 4 June in The Hague. Taylor boycotted the first hearing, claiming that he was not satisfied with the calibre of his court-appointed lawyer and lacked the resources to match those available to the prosecution. The trial was adjourned subsequently until 3 July, and again to 20 August to allow a defence team to be appointed for Taylor. Following the Court’s decision to accede to his request for an enhanced defence team Taylor appeared in court for the next hearing.
The Special Court announced on 12 July that it had signed an agreement with the United Kingdom under which Taylor will serve his sentence in the UK if convicted on the war-crimes charges. The Court had previously signed similar agreements with Sweden and Austria.
On 8 June senior Court officials briefed the Council on the Special Court’s progress and challenges. Notably, they called on UN member states to urgently address the Court’s funding shortfall, by making available an additional sixty million dollars to enable it to meet the targeted completion of its work by the end of 2009. This included anticipated costs of the Court’s case against Charles Taylor.
The Special Court on 20 June handed down its first verdicts when it found three leaders of the former rebel group Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), which had allied itself with the Revolutionary United Front rebels (RUF) against the Sierra Leonean government during the civil war, guilty on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They were however acquitted of one count of physical violence and two counts of sexual violence. On 19 July the Court sentenced two defendants to fifty years each in jail and the other to 45 years. The AFRC had launched a coup on 25 May 1997, six months after the signing of a peace agreement, and wrested power from then President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
On 28 June the Council issued a presidential statement in which it reaffirmed its support for the Special Court and commended the progress it had achieved, welcomed the beginning of the trial of Charles Taylor and congratulated the Court for handing down its first judgement on the AFRC case. It also acknowledged the Court’s progress towards realising its completion strategy as well as its financial needs and it urged the international community to sustain support to the Court. The Council also recognised the need for further arrangements to address residual matters after trials and appeals are completed, such as those related to long-term enforcement of sentences for individuals convicted, future trials for any persons currently at large, witness protection and the preservation of the Court’s archives.
the success of the upcoming elections;
considering the future of UNIOSIL after the elections;
ensuring effective consolidation of peace and stability, now largely in the hands of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), by tackling the root causes of the past conflict; enhancing good governance; economic recovery as well as requisite security sector reforms, access to justice and the promotion of human rights; and
ensuring proper handling of the residual issues from the Special Court.
Council members generally appear to be less engaged in developments regarding Sierra Leone, partly because the situation has been relatively more stable over the past year and also partly because of the emerging role of the PBC. The Council will await the outcome of the elections to inform its next steps, with possibly the United Kingdom and Ghana leading a drive to come up with a presidential statement.
It is unclear whether the assessment report by the Secretary-General on the role of UNIOSIL will be made available for the Council’s consideration prior to or after the elections. The Council seemed to anticipate it would be submitted to the Council before the election date (S/RES/1734).
The underlying problems remain issues relating to threats to the fragile security situation in the country, including youth unemployment and poor living standards, lack of vital local institutional capacity and adequate resources.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Presidential Statement|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Report|
Other Relevant Facts
|UNIOSIL Executive Representative of the Secretary-General|
|Victor da Silva Ângelo (Portugal, he also serves as UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sierra Leone)|
|Size and Composition of Mission|
|Total budgeted staff of 298, comprising 82 international staff, 192 local staff and 24 UN volunteers|
|1 January 2006 to present; current manadte expires 31 December 2007|