Sierra Leone experienced a civil war from 1991 to 2002, which killed at least 50,000 people, and was characterized by widespread killing, rape, mutilation of civilians and use of child soldiers.

Following several failed peace processes and military interventions by West African states, the United Nations and the UK, a final peace agreement was signed in 2001, the Abuja II Accord.

An earlier peace agreement, the 1999 Lomé Peace Accord, included power-sharing provisions and a blanket amnesty provision but the latter was later repudiated by the UN, which had brokered the agreement. A truth and reconciliation commission was established in 2002, which issued its report in 2004. The TRC operated alongside the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was tasked with prosecuting those who bore the “greatest responsibility” for atrocities in the country. As of 2013, the Court has completed all trials (save for several contempt cases), including that of former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor.

Sierra Leone returned to democracy with its first post-war election in 2002, but remains a fragile state prone to corruption.  Despite significant international assistance in governance and rule of law, access to formal justice remains limited.