NUI Galway Professor appointed to Sierre Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commis

Monday, 20 May 2002

Release date: 20 May, 2002

NUI Galway Professor appointed to Sierre Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Professor William A. Schabas, director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway, has been appointed by the President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, as a member of the country s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Commission, which will begin its fifteen-month mandate on 1 June 2002, is to create an impartial historical record of Sierra Leone s brutal civil war during the 1990s. The Commission is modelled on similar efforts in South Africa and Guatemala. It is also required to address the needs of victims and to promote reconciliation in the country.

"Sierra Leone s Truth Commission is somewhat unique, in that it will operate in parallel with criminal prosecutions of the most serious offenders by the newly created Special Court", Professor Schabas explained. The Special Court was established in January by an agreement between Sierra Leone and the United Nations.

"Truth commissions are increasingly recognised as useful and effective mechanisms to promote peace and reconciliation in societies emerging from conflict, and to combat impunity", said Professor Schabas. "They can ensure accountability where the more traditional approach of criminal prosecution is not possible. They are particularly effective in providing a voice for victims and in establishing what really took place."

The Sierra Leone Truth Commission is made up of seven commissioners, four of them nationals of Sierra Leone, and three of them non-nationals who were nominated by Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addition to Professor Schabas, the other non-nationals are Yasmin Louise Sooka, a former member of the South African Truth Commission, and Satang Ajaaraton Jow, former Gambian Minister of Education.

During 2002 and 2003, Professor Schabas will travel regularly to Sierra Leone in order to carry out his functions as a commissioner.

William Schabas is an internationally recognised specialist in international human rights law, with a particular expertise in the area of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. A prolific author, he has published twelve books on human rights subjects of which the most recent, An Introduction to the International Criminal Court, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2001. His work as a human rights monitor and investigator has taken him to such countries as Rwanda, Cambodia, Kosovo, Chechnya, the Sudan and El Salvador.

A national of Canada, Professor Schabas has lived in Ireland since January 2000, when he took up the chair in human rights law at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

For more information on the Truth Commission, see: http://www.sierra-leone.org/trc.html.

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Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press & Information Officer, NUI, Galway. Tel. 091 750418

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