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Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am very pleased to be asked to launch this National Victims Commemoration Conference organized by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The subject matter of the conference, which is to address the issue of public perceptions of, and expectations from, the transitional justice process, is of special interest to Government. This is why we have followed closely, and in some respects contributed to, the successful organisation of the regional conferences in the South, East, North and Western parts of the country, which have culminated in this national conference.

By seeking to foster a holistic and accurate public understanding of the transitional justice process, this conference is bound to enhance the relevance of the court to the ordinary citizen and deepen appreciation of the value of its work. I fully realize that the benefits of this conference have a wider reach than the Special Court. The Government, which has the primary responsibility for ensuring that its citizens realize their realistic expectations will also derive immense benefit from it. As we are all aware, a Government's ability to facilitate the satisfaction of the needs and expectations of its citizens is the source of its legitimacy. It is also a strong basis from which to mobilize citizens' support for national programmes that promote healing and reconciliation, among others. By extension, the persistence of unrealistic expectations constitutes a serious impediment to the accomplishment of these tasks and a threat to social stability.

In organising this conference to promote the transitional justice process, the Special Court has demonstrated a high degree of creativity by utilising a simple but powerful mechanism for meeting an extremely difficult challenge.

I am therefore not surprised that the conference has attracted a high level of interest from a wide range of national and international organizations and groups, including civil society groups that advocate for the rights of war victims.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me assure you that my Government's commitment to the transitional justice process, particularly upholding of the rights of the victims of the war, is firm and enduring. Our declared support for this conference and the activities leading to it, should serve as a clear demonstration of this commitment. This by no means suggests an intrusion by Government into the judicial process of the Special Court, respect for whose independence will forever remain uncompromised. What the Government shares with other agencies, including the Court and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, among other relevant agencies, is a mission to ensure that the rights of victims are effectively enforced.

This is a mission that requires collaboration among a wide range of interest groups consisting of national and international NGOs and civil society movements, the Government, and the international community at large, including the United Nations Organization.

Government appreciates the contributions made so far in this effort by all these parties. On our part, we have endeavoured to create an enabling environment which has made it possible for them to offer valuable contributions. We have also undertaken specific activities in furtherance of our common objectives. These include our resettlement of war-affected groups - the displaced and war wounded, for example; the nationwide rehabilitation of social infrastructure, such as educational facilities, health facilities and the justice and law enforcement systems; the implementation of special programmes for disadvantaged groups. such as programmes implemented by the National Commission for War Affected Children (NACWAC); as well as educational support for the girl child.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

A lot more needs to be done. For example there is the need to further explore avenues for addressing outstanding matters of direct interest to war victims. I am sure that the distinguished participants at this conference will use their expert knowledge to deliberate on these and related issues and come up with appropriate recommendations for the consideration of all interested parties, including Government.

We look forward to using such recommendations to further improve the focus of our responses to the challenges facing war victims and society at large.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

At this juncture, it may be relevant to share with you our rationale for establishing the Special Court for Sierra Leone. This was to create an atmosphere in which the rule of law would again prevail in Sierra Leone. At the material time when I requested the establishment of the Special Court, there was a steady decline in the respect for the rule of law. That trend which was marked by a total disregard for the rule of law on the mistaken belief by a section of the population in their right to impunity and inviolability needed to be arrested. An effective transitional justice system such as the one provided by the Special Court needed to be established.

There was the need immediately at the end of the war to get the entire population to have confidence in the state organs again, particularly in the judicial system of the country. But because of the events that had preceded the end of the war there was the possibility that some sections of the population would perceive as being targeted unjustifiably for prosecution and this may even help to erode their confidence in our judicial system which was not as robust as it is now.

We therefore hope that as part of the legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, there will develop a keen awareness among all residents of this country of the consequences of unlawful actions such as assaulting innocent individuals and vandalizing private and public property by students as a means of expressing grievances.

It now gives me great pleasure in launching the National Victims Commemoration Conference.

I thank you for your attention.