An international survey conducted both in Sierra Leone and Liberia on the prosecution of people who bear greatest responsibility for war in the two countries has received overwhelming approval.
The findings, dubbed: "Making Justice Count, Assessing the Impact and Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Sierra Leone and Liberia," were established by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in league with Liberian NGOs Network (LINNK).
The survey was conducted immediately after the sentencing former President Charles Taylor, with the aim of getting an overall picture of the impact and legacy of the Court in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
But once the appeals filed in the Taylor case are resolved in September or October 2013, the Special Court will become the first of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals to close its doors. The survey aims to establish the impact of the court on Sierra Leone and Liberia through its judicial proceedings, its legacy work and its outreach programmes.
The findings, consisting of questionnaires incorporating open ended and closed questions, was administered to 2, 841 people across various districts and counties in Sierra Leone and Liberia in June and July 2012.
The respondents were chosen from various target groups, representing diverse walks of life, sexes and age groups, with particular emphasis on ensuring the inclusion of voices that are historically overlooked, including women, young people and persons with disabilities.
Statistics show that the number of surveys, in relation to the overall population of both countries is close to 8.5 million, which represents a margin of error of 1.84 and a confidence level of 95 percent.
With a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent, if 60 percent of respondents replied 'yes', there is a 95 percent probability that between 58 percent and 62 percent of the whole would reply 'yes' to that question.
It stated that the question, 'what does justice mean to you and the fact that 72.49 percent of people replied "Establishment of the truth" means that there is a 95 percent probability that between 70.65 percent and 74.33 percent of the overall population of Sierra Leone and Liberia would say justice means the establishment of truth.
As such, the authors are confidence that the results of the survey are representative of the general feelings and perspective of the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia.
According to the survey results, the overall feeling towards the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the work it has carried out over the past 10 years is very positive.
The reports said among many things that it is safe to conclude that the SCSL has, on the whole, been successful in achieving what it set out to achieve, which according to the majority of the people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, is to carry out prosecution and to bring justice, peace and establish the rule of law.
The findings show that the people of both countries (Sierra Leone and Liberia) overwhelmingly felt that the SCSL had prosecuted those who bore the greatest responsibility for crimes, even if many people felt a need for additional prosecution further down the chain of command, and had helped in contributing to restoration of the rule of law.
The research also shows that majority of the peoples in Sierra Leone and Liberia believes that the international tribunal has made positive contribution towards peace and the rule of law in their respective countries.
It said in both countries, more than 90 percent of overall respondents have heard of the Court, while around 60 percent of the people indicated they were interested in its work and nearly 50 percent having participated in outreach activities at some point over the 10 years of its existence, including listening to radio programs.
The Court said this is impressive results; especially considering that 10 years ago, the Court was still an idea coming to fruition in an international justice landscape that was much rudimentary than the landscape of today.
About challenges, the reports said there were number of challenges that the Special Court had to overcome to reach the achievements, with greater and lesser degrees of success, from which lessons for other courts and tribunals can be drawn.
It said the knowledge about the trial of Mr. Taylor was widespread across both countries and reactions to the judgment and sentencing were understandably mixed, particularly in Liberia.
The survey said many people in Liberia felt it was unfair for Taylor to be tried before the Special Court of Sierra Leone, or that it was not right that he was tried only for crimes in Sierra Leone, as opposed to crimes allegedly committed in Liberia.
The document noted that Liberia tends to see the SCSL as a Sierra Leone court, and the need for a Special Court for Liberia' was repeatedly highlighted.