The location of the Special Court in the country where the conflict occurred represented one of the major challenges to the organisation. During the first two years of its operations, numerous major events raised the visibility of the Court in the region. In January 2003, the New England site near central Freetown was occupied by the Registry. As the Registry became operational in a densely populated central area of the city, the reality of the Court, both physically and psychologically, became apparent to the surrounding community. In March 2003, the announcement of the indictments and the arrests of the first five indictees, particularly the arrest of the serving Minister of Internal Affairs, Sam Hinga Norman, further reinforced the reality of the Court and provided evidence that the Court would fulfill its mandate to try those alleged to bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed during the conflict. Similarly, the second round of arrests which were conducted in the countryside in May 2003 and the unsealing of the indictment against Charles Taylor in June 2003 resulted in the Special Court becoming the focus of attention within the region as well as in Sierra Leone, with implication for the Court’s security.
In August 2003, the completion of the Detention Facility on the New England site allowed the transfer of the detainees from the temporary facility at Bonthe on Sherbro Island to Freetown. This transfer required the stationing of UN peacekeepers UNAMSIL and later UNMIL at the Court site on a permanent basis until the Detention Facility closed in 2009. As the Court prepared for each of the events, the Security Section implemented plans to recruit, equip and train security personnel to ensure each event was conducted without incident. The year 2003 began with three international and ten national staff supported by twenty members of the Sierra Leonean Police. To meet the increased security demands, the end of the year saw the Section expanded to eighteen international officers and forty national staff with operational control of seventy Sierra Leonean Police officers and fifty UNAMSIL soldiers. During the history of the Court, security preparedness has prevented any serious incident involving Court facilities or staff.
As the security situation evolved over the years, security plans were developed and modified in collaboration with UNAMSIL, and later UNIOSIL and UNIPSIL, as well as other host nation security organisations.
Following the closure of UNAMSIL at the end of 2005, UNMIL – the UN Mission in Liberia – coordinated with the Special Court to deploy the Mongolian Guard Forces to take responsibility for the protection of the Special Court from 2006 to 2011.The Security Section directed and coordinated operational plans to ensure a safe and secure working environment within the Court complex. In addition, the Security Section implemented protective and preventative security measures to enhance the safety of the principals and staff members when off duty.
The Security Section provided specialist security services to meet the different needs of the separate entities within the Court. These included support to the Witness and Victims Section, support to the Detention Facility, an armed close protection service for the Court Principals, emergency response, training, and advice to all staff members regarding personal and residential security precautions, secure movement of detainees from Detention to the courtrooms and back, secure movement of detainees to and from hospitals, both inside and outside the country, investigation of all incidents involving Special Court staff and property, Access control to the Special Court compound using manpower as well as the automated an Integrated Security System (ISS), and support to visitors and outreach programmes up-country.
The Security Section also provided training to Detention Personnel on restraint and immobilisation techniques, besides conducting its own continuous in-house training of Security Personnel.