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The First Judgement of the Special Court for Sierra Leone: A Missed Opportunity?

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On 29 June 2007, the Special Court for Sierra Leone – a criminal tribunal created by an agreement between the United Nations and Sierra Leone – rendered its first judgement. The three accused, all senior members of a military junta which had ousted the elected government, were amongst other things found guilty of "new" international crimes, such as using child soldiers and collectively punishing the civilian population. This note critically analyses the achievements and shortcomings of what can be seen as a landmark ruling in international criminal law. It discusses the court's rejection of a separate crime of "forced marriages" as well as the application of "effective control" in terms of responsibility of a superior in the context of an "African conflict". Finally, this note examines the treatment of defective pleadings in the indictment in relation to particulars, crimes committed by the accused in person, and the existence of a joint criminal enterprise. It will be demonstrated that the judgement is of significance not only for assessing the success of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, but also for future criminal trials dealing with similar charges.

Affiliations: 1: Legal Officers in the Chambers Legal Support Section of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of the United Nations (UN)


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