UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

UN Women hails historic work done by Special Court for Sierra Leone strengthening women’s access to justice

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Date: 09 October 2012

Calls for continued international support for international courts to complete mandates and document lessons learned

Media Inquiries:
Oisika Chakrabarti, oisika.chakrabarti[at]unwomen.org, +1 646 781-4522
Hadrien Bonnaud, hadrien.bonnaud[at]unwomen.org, +1 646 781-4751

United Nations, New York, 9 October—Today the leadership of the Special Court for Sierra Leone addressed the United Nations Security Council and briefed them on the progress made and the challenges that remain for ensuring justice in the country.

Pictured from left: Claire Carlton-Hanciles, Chief Defender of the Court; Court Registrar Binta Mansaray; Prosecutor Brenda Hollis; Ms. Bachelet; and Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, President of the Court.

UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet held a joint press conference on the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, especially on behalf of women, following the Court's briefing to the Security Council on 9 October 2012. The Special Court is the first in history whose principals - the president, registrar, prosecutor, and defender - are all women. Pictured from left: Claire Carlton-Hanciles, Chief Defender of the Court; Court Registrar Binta Mansaray; Prosecutor Brenda Hollis; Ms. Bachelet; and Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, President of the Court. (Photo credit: UN Women)

The work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone represents a critical landmark for international justice in prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes committed during conflicts. The jurisprudence of the Special Court for Sierra Leone played an essential role in advancing the recognition in law for such crimes. The Revolutionary United Front trial judgment represented, for instance, the first-ever international convictions of forced marriage as a crime against humanity.

The Special Court of Sierra Leone is currently completing the trial phase of its mandate, with operational funding secured only through the end of November. UN Women has repeatedly called for support to international courts and tribunals to allow them to complete their mandates and consolidate the gains made in the course of their work as regards to gender justice. UN Women highlights the importance of documenting and sharing the lessons learned on the prosecution of gender-based crimes and innovative aspects to strengthen access to justice for women, such as the important outreach work done by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In Sierra Leone, UN Women has supported women's access to justice domestically to complement the efforts of the Special Court. UN Women also supported the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and programmes to support women testifying as well as a reparations programme for survivors of sexual violence.

“War harms women in multiple ways. From mass rapes to mass displacements, women are on the frontlines of conflict and they are demanding justice. This includes effective prosecutions of war crimes and adequate redress for women. The Special Court for Sierra Leone has served justice and contributed to peace consolidation and reconciliation within a country destroyed by a devastating civil war, said Executive Director UN Women, Michelle Bachelet. “It is now essential that the Court be given the means to complete its mandate and to document and share lessons learned in strengthening women's access to justice.

The women leaders at the helm of the Special Court are President of the Court Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, Prosecutor Brenda Hollis, Chief Defender Claire Carlton-Hanciles and Registrar Binta Mansaray. Their leadership furthers the mandate of the ground-breaking Security Council Resolution 1325 which calls for an increase in the number of women in all areas of post-conflict recovery, including judicial processes. The leadership of the Special Court is historic, with all of its four Principals being women—a first in the history of international tribunals.

A press conference will be held on Tuesday 9 October at 2 pm EDT in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium with Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet, President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, Registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone Binta Mansaray, and Ambassador of Guatemala to the United Nations, Gert Rosenthal, as Guatemala holds Presidency of the Security Council in October.

Related Links

Archived Webcast: Press Conference—Ms. Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, and the leadership team of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

2pm EDT, Tuesday 9 October