The United Nations-backed court set up to try suspects indicted for war crimes in Sierra Leone today charged five people with contempt of court for allegedly interfering with prosecution witnesses who testified in two separate trials.
Two convicted former leaders of the group known as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council that was active in Sierra Leone in the 1990s – Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu (aka Five-Five) – were served with their indictments in Rwanda’s Mpanga Prison, where they are serving lengthy sentences for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone.
Also facing charges are Hassan Papa Bangura (aka Bomblast) and Samuel Kargbo (aka Sammy Ragga), who live in Sierra Leone. The four are charged with two counts of attempting to bribe a witness to recant his testimony.
Mr. Kamara faces an additional count of disclosing the name of a protected witness, “in knowing violation of an order of a Chamber,” according to a news release issued by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).
Based in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, the court was set up in 2002 to try those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the civil wars that plagued the country, starting in 1996.
In a separate order, the Trial Chamber charged Eric Senessie on nine counts of attempting to induce prosecution witnesses in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor to recant the testimony they gave before the Court.
No arrest warrants have been issued and all the accused have sought guidance from the court’s defence office on obtaining counsel.
The charges followed separate independent investigations ordered in March by the Trial Chamber to determine whether allegations raised by the prosecution provided sufficient grounds to initiate contempt proceedings.
If convicted, the accused could serve up to seven years in jail, fines of up to two million leones (approximately $500), or both.