The Writ of Habeas Corpus and the Special Court for Sierra Leone: Adressing an Unforeseen Problem in the Establishment of a Hybrid Court


The hybrid model of international criminal tribunals, which supplements general principles of international criminal law with the domestic legal principles of the host country, has been implemented in myriad nations, including Cambodia, Kosovo, and Sierra Leone. The popularity of this model derives in part from its potential to legitimate international criminal prosecutions in the eyes of the host country and to strengthen the domestic legal system of that nation. However, in creating an obligation to honor principles of both domestic and international law, the hybrid model may create inconsistent legal duties whose resolution could undermine the proper functioning of an international tribunal. This Note highlights such a conflict, which stems from a tension between the temporal jurisdiction of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and protections accorded by the Sierra Leonean Constitution. Specifically, this Note argues that Special Court prisoners who are imprisoned by the state in Sierra Leone could be legally entitled to release by writ of habeas corpus. The Note considers several solutions to the problem, and argues for three approaches that are grounded upon respect for the legal traditions of Sierra Leone and which thus preserve the legitimating and capacity-building functions of the hybrid model.
*650 Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns–the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.