Table of Contents

Research Handbook on the International Penal System

Research Handbook on the International Penal System

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Róisín Mulgrew and Denis Abels

Drawing on the expertise and experience of contributors from a wide range of academic, professional and judicial backgrounds, this handbook critically analyses the laws, policies and practices that govern detention, punishment and the enforcement of sentences in the international criminal justice context. Comprehensive and innovative, it also explores broader normative questions related to international punishment and makes recommendations for the international penal system’s development.

Chapter 15: Enforcement of sentences and oversight of prisoners convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Teresa Anne Doherty and Shireen Avis Fisher

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, human rights, public international law


The SCSL is the first international tribunal to have completed its mandate and transitioned to a new institution, the RSCSL. The RSCSL has been entrusted with responsibility for meeting the Special Court’s obligations to victims, witnesses and prisoners sentenced by the SCSL. Beginning in 2007 the SCSL engaged in an examination of the theoretical and practical issues raised by the possibility of early release of sentenced prisoners, and ultimately put in place a practice direction. This chapter reviews the objectives of that practice direction as well as the process it incorporates to meet those objectives, and follows the jurisprudence of the SCSL and the RSCSL in meeting its prisoner oversight responsibilities. Sierra Leone, a small country on the west coast of Africa, experienced a brutal civil war from 1996 to 2002. Following the declaration of peace the Government of Sierra Leone entered into a treaty agreement with the UN to establish a special court composed of international and national judges to prosecute those who bore ‘the greatest responsibility’ for the war crimes, crimes against humanity and breaches of international humanitarian law perpetrated in the war. The Prosecutor preferred indictments against 14 persons. These were subsequently consolidated into three trials of the leaders of three warring groups (Revolutionary United Front or RUF, Civil Defence Front or CDF and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council or AFRC) and one individual, Charles Taylor, then President of Liberia. All the trials have been completed but there is one outstanding indictee whose whereabouts is unknown.

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