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Special Court registrar announces resignation but urged to stay

Robin Vincent, the man who set up Sierra Leone's international war crimes tribunal, has said he will stand down in the autumn but UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and several governments have begged him to reconsider, a court spokesman told IRIN on Wednesday.

Vincent, a British court administrator, was appointed two years ago by the United Nations and has presided over the construction of the Special Court, which was built from scratch to try those that bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's brutal 10-year civil war.

Vincent's resignation comes at a time when the court is waiting for its budget for the final year of its three-year mandate to be approved and is examining ways to fund proceedings if they run past 2005.

A Western diplomat in the capital Freetown told IRIN Vincent had felt frustrated.

"I think he felt he wasn't getting the support he needed from some quarters," the diplomat said. "It's no secret that he was finding it difficult to run the court given the uncertainty of not having guaranteed finances."

Special Court spokesman Peter Andersen said Vincent had signalled his intention to leave during a senior staff meeting in July, saying he would go in three months time.

"He's been prevailed upon by the Secretary General, the Sierra Leonean government, the British government and others, who have all asked him to reconsider," Andersen added.

The Western diplomat said he was hopeful Vincent would change his mind.

Sierra Leone's Special Court went into the history books as the first international war crimes tribunal to sit U.N.-appointed international judges alongside local judges at a court in the country where the atrocities took place.

It aimed to deliver justice cheaper and faster than tribunals for Rwanda and Bosnia and quickly indicted 11 people.

But funding has remained a key frustration. Just 33 of the 191 UN member countries had provided funds for Special Court, and pledges made for the court's third year had had to be brought forward to cover the second year of operations.

Court officials say the budget for the Special Court's final year is in the region of $28 million, bringing the total cost for its three-year mandate to $80 million -- some $40 million less than is needed to run the Rwanda war crimes tribunal for just one year.

Trials of government militia leaders from the Civil Defence Forces began in Freetown in June but then adjourned so that the leaders of the rebel group Revolutionary United Front could appear in the dock in July.

The third group of indictees from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, a military junta that ruled Sierra Leone from May 1997 to March 1998, is still awaiting trial because judges need to be recruited for the second chamber.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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