Perceptions of Healing & Justice in Sierra Leone
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This study investigates the effectiveness of a new type of ad hoc war crimes tribunal as a transitional justice mechanism, using the Special Court for Sierra Leone as a case study. The assumption is that the Court, which is the first ad hoc tribunal to operate in the country where the atrocities took place, will spur reconciliation through its unique outreach efforts to actively engage the population. The second assumption is that the court will revitalize Sierra Leoneans' belief in, and respect for, the rule of law, thus ending the culture of impunity. In this respect it is vital for people to understand the functioning and mandate of the Court. This presentation focuses on understanding how people affected by the civil war perceive and understand the Court in order to see its impact on reconciliation. The research is based on in-depth interviews with over 40 leading civil society figures and empirical evidence collected in Sierra Leone between May and August of 2006. Based on the sampling carried out in this research, the Court's outreach efforts fall short of the far reaching engagement envisioned. There is still a serious lack of accurate information about the court's functioning, mandate and the progress of its trails. Civil society leaders generally have a decent understanding of the Court and its activities however the effects do not trickle down to the ordinary Sierra Leonean. Ultimately the lack of information and understanding about the Court severely limits its impact on ending impunity and fuelling reconciliation.