27 Law Context: A Socio-Legal J. 132 (2009)
Insufficiently Hybrid: Assessing the Special Court for Sierra Leone

handle is hein.journals/lwincntx27 and id is 140 raw text is: 









   Insufficiently Hybrid: Assessing the

        Special Court for Sierra Leone

                           Tim Kelsall



   Although there seems to be an emerging consensus in international
   circles that the Special Court for Sierra Leone has been a relative
   success story, this article queries that view. It details a number of
   political, institutional, and cultural ways in which the Court failed
   adequately to adjust to local context. Its political legitimacy was
   attenuated as soon as it prosecuted members of a popular local militia;
   its investigations team made routine blunders, the Outreach effort was
   too little too late, it alienated members of the local legal profession; it
   failed to get the best out of witnesses at trial, imposed alien laws on a
   local population, and applied legal doctrines ill-fitted to the nature of
   local social reality. For all these reasons, the Court's operation was
   severely compromised, suggesting that the hybrid model deserves a
   serious rethink.


In spite of ongoing controversy in Sierra Leone, a long stream of fault-
finding monitoring reports (for example Staggs and Kendall, 2004;
Staggs and Kendall, 2005; Van Tuyl, 2008), and several critical
publications (eg Dougherty, 2004; Cockayne, 2005; Kelsall, 2006b), there
appears to be an emerging consensus in international criminal justice
circles that the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) was something of a
success story. While the Court doubtless represented progress when
compared to ICJ debacles such as the East Timorese Special Panels, it
was still beset by problems. The article aims to demonstrate this point by
providing an overview of some of the political, institutional and cultural
ways in which the Court failed adequately to adjust to the context in
which it found itself.
    The backstory to the Special Court is a dreadful civil war, of dizzying
complexity, that wracked Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002. During
this conflict thousands of individuals, most of them civilians, were
murdered or maimed at the hands of a variety of armed factions. First
the country was invaded to the east by a small group of Liberian-backed
rebels called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Then a military
coup swept away the inept and corrupt single party government. Not
long after, government soldiers began collaborating with rebels to abuse
the civilian population, the regime in Freetown surviving only with the
help of South African mercenaries and home-grown militia units (the

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