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Abstract

Most countries in transition from civil war face limited choices when

imposing accountability for past atrocities. Some, like Mozambique, opt

to grant unconditional amnesty. Other countries, like South Africa, have

instituted a truth and reconciliation commission and granted limited

amnesty, while yet others, like Rwanda, prosecute perpetrators of

genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These solutions are

not mutually exclusive. Following a ten-year, bloody war characterized

by widespread killings, amputations, rape, slavery, enforced prostitution

and extensive use of child soldiers, Sierra Leone has chosen a unique

blend of institutional mechanisms. At first, the government purported to

grant an "unconditional" amnesty to the perpetrators while establishing

a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. When the agreement

establishing the latter foundered, the government established a Special

Court in addition to the Commission. Amnesty pardons all, the

Commission seeks truth, reconciliation and healing for past wrongs, and

the Court aims at prosecuting the most culpable perpetrators. This Note

examines two of these seemingly conflicting mechanisms - the Truth and

Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court. The Note compares

the mandates of the respective bodies, as well as their basis, composition

and jurisdiction and discusses their respective roles in Sierra Leone. The

Note highlights several areas in which these bodies need to cooperate

while maintaining their independence and emphasizes the need to define

the relationship between the two institutions in order to preserve their

effectiveness.

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