International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Winter 2010 Issue

Justice In Profile

Renate Winter

Renate WinterBy: Christine E. White, Copy Editor and Reporter, International Judicial Monitor

Justice Renate Winter is an Austrian judge who sits on the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL)[i].  An expert on juvenile justice, women’s rights, and family law who is passionate about reconciliation and restorative justice, she has worked tirelessly throughout the world to bring justice to victims and prevent the occurrence of future atrocities.  She believes, “that no lasting peace is possible without justice … that no peace, reconciliation nor economic development can take place without resolving the issue of women.”

Justice Winter was part of the first group of judges appointed to the SCSL by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone in July, 2002.  She was the acting President of the SCSL for two months in the spring of 2004.  In May, 2008 she was unanimously elected to serve a one-year term as the Presiding Judge of the SCSL, making her the body’s President.  She was re-elected President of the SCSL in May, 2009 and served in that position until November, 2009 when Justice Jon Kamanda, a Sierra Leonean, was elected President. 

In July, 2009, as President of the SCSL, Justice Winter spoke before the United Nations Security Council and cautioned that the court’s funding crisis “poses the real possibility of disrupting our work … jeopardizing the fight against impunity and potentially calling into question our collective commitment to international justice.”  On October 26, 2009, she delivered the majority opinion in the Appeals Chamber’s judgment that upheld the convictions of three former leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).  The decision marked the first time ever that an international court declared forced marriage a crime against humanity.

During her tenure at the SCSL, Justice Winter has helped bring justice to the country not only through the judicial channel, but also through a personal project of her own.  In June, 2008 she started a small sewing school in Freetown to help reintegrate “bush wives”[ii] back into society.  Women who graduated from the sewing program had the opportunity to sell the clothing they made in a show at the SCSL and received a sewing machine and $100 to start their own sewing businesses.  Justice Winter personally raised the money for the sewing institute, which ran until the SCSL finished its work in Freetown, from friends and former colleagues.[iii]  When discussing the sewing institute, Justice Winter noted, “Maybe this is my legacy.”[iv]

Justice Winter began her judicial career in 1981 at the Vienna Youth Court, where she handled issues relating to drug addiction and mental disability.  From November, 2000 until her appointment to the SCSL, she served as an international judge in Kosovo, first on the Mitrovica District Court and later on the Kosovo Supreme Court.  She also headed the Kosovo Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. 

She has chaired and participated in over a hundred international conferences, seminars, and meetings that have addressed juvenile justice and women’s rights and their relation to restorative justice in war-torn areas and developing countries.  She worked with the Croatian government on implementation of the European Union PHARE 2005[v] project.  In her capacity as a legal expert, she was tasked with drafting laws to reform the judicial and prosecutorial training programs in Croatia.   In 2006, UNICEF invited her to participate in a juvenile justice seminar in Iran organized by the Department of Judicial Development of the Iranian Judiciary and UNICEF.  Following the seminar, Justice Winter facilitated a workshop for Iranian government employees, including members of the police force and State Welfare Organization.  Justice Winter has also worked on a United Nations assignment in Rwanda and other African countries. 

Justice Winter is a member of many international organizations, including the International Association of Women Judges, the International Institute for the Rights of the Child, and the International Association Of Youth And Family Judges And Magistrates, of which she is the President.  She is the course director for the annual international seminar of the International Institute for the Rights of the Child conducted in Sion, Switzerland in collaboration with UNICEF.  The seventh seminar, to be conducted in 2010, will address “harmful traditional practices” and their effects on human rights.  She has directed training courses on juvenile justices for officials from Turkey, Moldova, and Jordan, among other countries. 

Justice Renate Winter is a true advocate for children, women, and all those who have been victims of injustice.  She believes that “…education and real and legal equality between men and women” are the keys to preventing such atrocities and has dedicated her career to bringing justice to victims and a brighter future to the international community.

[i] The Special Court for Sierra Leona (SCSL) was jointly established by the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone to try “to prosecute persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996.”  The SCSL has finished all of the trial and appeal proceedings that were to take place at its headquarters in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  Eight of the thirteen indictees (3 died before the ends of their trials, Johnny Paul Koroma is still at large, and Charles Taylor is still on trial in the Netherlands) have been convicted.

[ii] The “bush wives” are girls and women who were kidnapped and forced to be the “wives” of soldiers and were later ostracized by their families after the civil war ended.

[iii] Scott Kraft, “In Sierra Leone, a 'women's project, for women',” Los Angeles Times, September 01, 2009.

[iv] Raniah Salloum, Legacy, A Life Worth Living, (Jul. 15, 2010).

[v] “The Programme of Community aid to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (PHARE) is the main financial instrument of the pre-accession strategy for the Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) which have applied for membership of the European Union. Since 1994, Phare's tasks have been adapted to the priorities and needs of each CEEC. The revamped Phare programme, with a budget of over EUR 10 billion for the period 2000-2006 (about 1.5 billion per year), has two main priorities, namely institutional and capacity-building and investment financing.” (

The Croatian government used part of the PHARE 2005 funds “to develop objective and transparent criteria for a selection, evaluation and career system for trainees, advisors, judges and prosecutors. In addition, the project developed a training system for future judges and prosecutors.” (


« Back to the Home Page

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2010 – The International Judicial Academy with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
IJM welcomes comments, suggestions, and submissions.
Please contact the IJM editor at