Trials of three alleged rebel RUF leaders begin Monday in Sierra Leone
The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) will commence trials on Monday of three former members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) charged with major crimes in connection with the country's 1991-2002 civil war.
The three defendants, being tried on 18 counts each, are Issa Hassan Sesay, said to have become RUF leader after the death of founder Foday Sankoh, Morris Kallon, allegedly a former RUF commander, and alleged former RUF Chief of Security Augustine Gbao.
The 18-count indictment includes terrorizing the civilian population, unlawful killings, sexual and physical violence, use of child soldiers, abduction and forced labour, looting, burning, attacks on UN peacekeepers and, added on 17 May, forced marriage as an inhumane act.
To bring lasting peace to Sierra Leone, the Lomé Peace Accord of July 1999 authorized a Truth and Reconciliation Commission without the power to grant amnesty. Separately, the UN Security Council authorized a peacekeeping mission, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in October 1999. The SCSL was set up in 2002 under an agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations.
The court, the second international war crimes tribunal established in Africa, was mandated to try those bearing the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian and Sierra Leonean law within Sierra Leone's borders since 30 November 1996.
The war in Sierra Leone started when RUF rebels launched an attack on the government in March 1991. The RUF and the national Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) eventually formed a ruling junta, which was toppled in February 1998 by the Economic Commission of West African States' (ECOWAS) Military Observer Group (ECOMOG).
President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, whose election the RUF had refused to recognize, then returned from nearly a year's exile in neighbouring Guinea.
The trials of people accused of having committed crimes against humanity under the umbrella of the anti-rebel Civil Defence Forces (CDF), comprising the tribal Kamajor fighters, started on 3 June.