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Evaluating the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s gender jurisprudence

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The Sierra Leone Special Court and its Legacy: The Impact for Africa and International Criminal Law

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Introduction The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has a very interesting, though somewhat mixed, record in addressing gender-based violence, including sexual violence, in the context of the cases it has considered regarding the armed conflict in Sierra Leone. There are aspects of the SCSL’s jurisprudence that are groundbreaking and potentially precedent-setting, such as the Court’s consideration of the role of sexual violence in the war strategy of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in the Sesay, Kallon and Gbao (or RUF) case and in the Taylor trial judgment. There are other aspects that are similarly positive and confirmatory, demonstrating how gender-based crimes can and do intersect in crucial ways with each other and with seemingly gender-neutral crimes. This is seen, for example, in the observations in Brima, Kamara and Kanu (AFRC case) of how rape was often accompanied by other forms of physical and psychological brutality. Other examples are found in the discussions of forced marriage in the AFRC, RUF and Taylor cases, in which the Court grapples with the interrelationship of forced marriage with rape, sexual slavery, and enslavement (specifically forced domestic labor). And yet, there are other, more unfortunate aspects of the SCSL’s jurisprudence – most notably, the complete silence in the Fofana and Kondewa trial judgment on gender-based violence in areas held by the Civil Defense Forces (the CDF case).

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