Officials from the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone have taken custody of the body reported to be that of indicted war criminal Sam Bockarie and are set to conduct an independent forensic examination to confirm its identity and determine the cause of death.
According to a statement issued yesterday, the alleged body of Mr. Sam Bockarie was finally returned from Liberia on Sunday, following weeks of diplomatic pressure on the Government of Liberia.
Liberian authorities claim Mr. Bockaie was killed on 6 May during an alleged arrest attempt by Government forces. However, last week, the Government changed its story and announced that the former rebel leader had been plotting a coup attempt against President Charles Taylor’s regime.
David Crane, the Court’s Chief Prosecutor, said given their “delaying tactics and obstruction,” he seriously doubted the Liberian authorities’ account of the incident. He promised, however, that the truth would be uncovered “in due time,” saying “the people of Sierra Leone deserve to know whether Bockarie is dead, and if so, in what manner he died.”
On 7 March, the Court indicted Mr. Bockarie and another rebel leader, Johnny Paul Koroma, for alleged atrocities – ranging from murder and sexual slavery to forced conscription of children and attacks on UN peacekeepers – committed during Sierra Leone's 10-year civil war. Both were connected with the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Mr. Koroma remains at large, purportedly holed up in a small Liberian village.
Mr. Crane again called for Liberian authorities to arrest and transfer Mr. Koroma to the Court’s custody. “If there is to be any lasting peace and security in the region, Koroma must have his day in Court,” he said.
The Special Court, created through an international agreement between the United Nations and Sierra Leone, is mandated to try those who bear "the greatest responsibility" for atrocities committed during the country's civil war.