Magazine article New African

Sierra Leone: More Bad News for UN Special Court; the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone Has Been Hitting the Headlines Recently, but for All the Wrong Reasons. Tom Okello Reports

Magazine article New African

Sierra Leone: More Bad News for UN Special Court; the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone Has Been Hitting the Headlines Recently, but for All the Wrong Reasons. Tom Okello Reports

Article excerpt

With a conviction for sex abuse and the announcement that its prosecutor is to resign his post in July, the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has been churning plenty of news of late. The judicial tribunal, which was established to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country's 1991-2002 civil war, has been rocked by the conviction of its head of investigations, Peter Halloran, for sexually molesting his 13-year-old house girl.

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Coupled with the announcement that the Court's chief prosecutor David Crane, a former lawyer with the US Department of Defence, was relinquishing his position when his current contract expires, questions have been raised about the legitimacy and appropriateness of the Court. Crane insists that 90% of the SCSL's work is complete and justice would be delivered by the end of 2006. The Court's mandate could even be extended if proceedings took longer than anticipated, Crane added.

Halloran was found guilty of enticing his maid into his bedroom where he groped her bare breasts during the night. In evidence given to the police, the unnamed girl said Halloran had mistreated her over a period of two days when she stayed at his residence.

Handing down a sentence of 18 months at the High Court in the capital Freetown, Judge Samuel Ademusu said: "Halloran took most improper liberties with the girl who was anxious to get a job [and he] told deliberate lies to the police out of a wish to conceal his disgraceful behaviour."

Evidence against Halloran, an Australian and former head of homicide in the police force of Victoria State, Southern Australia, was given by one of his own colleagues from the Special Court. Mandy Caldwell, an investigator working as part of Halloran's team came across the young girl sleeping in Halloran's bed while she was staying at his house.

Judge Ademusu added: "It would be meaningless to impose a fine on the accused, bearing in mind that this is a very serious offence in which I feel very strongly--taking a girl from school who was anxious for a job should not be visited with any other sentence than a custodial one."

The SCSL was established in July 2002 with an initial budget of US$60 million. By 2004, the budget had ballooned to $200m, with very little to show for it. …

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