Eight men found guilty by a United Nations-backed court of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone's brutal decade-long civil war have been transferred to Rwanda to serve their sentences.
Currently, no prison in Sierra Leone meets the required international standards, so amid tight security, they were flown yesterday from the detention facilities at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) compound in the country's capital, Freetown, to Rwanda's capital, Kigali.
Among those transferred were three men who led a rebel movement called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) who were convicted in February on charges relating to, among others, terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery and use of child soldiers, and, for the first time in history, forced marriage and attacks against peacekeepers.
Last week, the SCSL upheld the sentences of former RUF Interim Leader Issa Hassan Sesay to 52 years in prison, RUF commander Morris Kallon to 40 years and former RUF Chief of Security Augustine Gbao to 25 years.
Others flown to Rwanda to serve their sentences were three former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Alex Tamba Brima, Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu, as well as two former leaders of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa.
The eight prisoners will be incarcerated at Rwanda's Mpanga Prison under an agreement between the Court and the Rwandan Government. The part of the facility where they will be held was originally built to house those convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Credit will be given for time served while in detention at the Special Court, which was set up jointly by the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone and is mandated to bring those bearing the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed in the West African nation after 30 November 1996.
The Freetown-based Court last week handed down its final ruling in Sierra Leone last week, wrapping up its trial proceedings.
The remaining trial, involving former Liberian president Charles Taylor, is continuing at The Hague, where it was moved for security reasons.