UN-backed court hands down final rulings in Sierra Leone
The United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has upheld the convictions and sentences passed on three former rebels in the last judgment by the tribunal to be handed down in the West African nation.
The three former leaders of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were convicted earlier this year for atrocities committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war.
The charges include forced marriage as a crime against humanity and attacks against UN peacekeepers – the first time that an international criminal tribunal has entered guilty verdicts for both charges.
The Court – which is based in the capital, Freetown – dismissed all the appeals of the defendants, except one regarding Augustine Gbao for the charge of collective punishment, which has been overturned. He will still have to serve the 25-year sentence originally imposed on him.
The other defendants, Issa Sesay and Morris Kallon, will serve 52 years and 40 years, respectively.
The acting Prosecutor of the Court, Joseph Kamara, welcomed today’s judgment, calling it “a final condemnation of one of the most brutal and notorious rebel groups in modern times.
“This judgment sends a signal that such tactics of warfare will not go unpunished. It may act as a deterrent against those who would use this strategy to further their own aims at the expense of the innocent,” he added in a news release.
With today’s judgment, the Court’s trial proceedings in Sierra Leone now complete. It has now delivered final judgements in all three of its Freetown-based trials, with eight accused persons convicted.
The remaining trial, involving former Liberian president Charles Taylor, is continuing at The Hague, where it was moved for security reasons.
The Special Court is an independent tribunal established jointly by the Sierra Leonean Government and the UN in 2002. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed in Sierra Leone after 30 November 1996.