Strengthening women's access to justice

United Nations, New York-Today the leadership of the Special Court for Sierra Leone addresses the United Nations Security Council and briefs them on the progress made and the challenges that remain for ensuring justice in the country.

The work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone represents a critical landmark for international justice in prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes committed during conflicts. The jurisprudence of the Special Court for Sierra Leone played an essential role in advancing the recognition in law for such crimes. The Revolutionary United Front trial judgment represented, for instance, the first-ever international convictions of forced marriage as a crime against humanity.

The Special Court of Sierra Leone is currently completing the trial phase of its mandate, with operational funding secured only through the end of November. UN Women has repeatedly called for support to international courts and tribunals to allow them to complete their mandates and consolidate the gains made in the course of their work as regards to gender justice. UN Women highlights the importance of documenting and sharing the lessons learned on the prosecution of gender-based crimes and innovative aspects to strengthen access to justice for women, such as the important outreach work done by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In Sierra Leone, UN Women has supported women's access to justice domestically to complement the efforts of the Special Court. UN Women also supported the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and programmes to support women testifying as well as a reparations programme for survivors of sexual violence.

"War harms women in multiple ways. From mass rapes to mass displacements, women are on the frontlines of conflict and they are demanding justice. This includes effective prosecutions of war crimes and adequate redress for women. The Special Court for Sierra Leone has served justice and contributed to peace consolidation and reconciliation within a country destroyed by a devastating civil war," said Executive Director UN Women, Michelle Bachelet. "It is now essential that the Court be given the means to complete its mandate and to document and share lessons learned in strengthening women's access to justice."

The women leaders at the helm of the Special Court are President of the Court Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, Prosecutor Brenda Hollis, Chief Defender Claire Carlton-Hanciles and Registrar Binta Mansaray. Their leadership furthers the mandate of the ground-breaking Security Council Resolution 1325 which calls for an increase in the number of women in all areas of post-conflict recovery, including judicial processes. The leadership of the Special Court is historic, with all of its four Principals being women-a first in the history of international tribunals.

A press conference will be held on Tuesday 9 October at 2 pm EDT in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium with Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet, President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, Registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone Binta Mansaray, and Ambassador of Guatemala to the United Nations, Gert Rosenthal, as Guatemala holds Presidency of the Security Council in October. The press conference will be webcast live at



Statement by Michelle Bachelet at a Press Conference with the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Posted on October 9 2012 | Executive Director Michelle Bachelet

Statement by Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, at a press conference with the Special Court for Sierra Leone, United Nations, New York, 9 October 2012.



We are here today to mark an unprecedented moment. For the first time in history, all four Principals of an international court, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, are women - the President of the Court, the Chief Prosecutor, Chief Defender and the Registrar.

UN Women has consistently called for an increase in the number of women in all aspects of post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding, including in institutions of justice. We have concurrently called for enhanced access to justice for women for conflict-related gender-based crimes.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone has achieved both of these goals. In this respect it has, as an institution, contributed greatly to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

Through its charges and judgments to date, the Court has laid the foundation in international criminal law for the recognition of forced marriage, sexual violence as terrorism, sexual slavery and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Women are not just subjects of international justice but are critical actors in developing and leading international law. Under the leadership of the now Registrar, for example, the Court developed a model of gender-sensitive outreach, ensuring that women in particular, who are often information poor - could see justice being done for the crimes they endured.

While the Court is exemplary in contributing to the evolution of gender justice, these efforts require ongoing support. The Court currently faces a critical funding situation, and yet has much work that remains to be completed. Its ongoing mandate includes the finalization of cases, support and protection for witnesses, and the completion of handover. We also cannot let the opportunity pass us by without doing our utmost to document and learn from the remarkable advances made by the Special Court on prosecutions for gender based crimes.

It has been a privilege for UN Women to support the Principals of the Special Court to come and brief the UN Security Council today. In Sierra Leone, UN Women has also supported women's access to justice through other mechanisms, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and ongoing support to the country's reparations programme through a grant by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

Today, I commend the work of the Court and in particular its leadership, and I call on the international community to continue to support the work of international courts to ensure that we are delivering on our obligations to secure justice for the most serious crimes, in particular for the horrific sexual and gender based crimes that occur during conflict.




UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. For more information, visit UN Women, 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017. Tel: +1 646 781-4400. Fax: +1 646 781-4444.


UN Women


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey