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Sierra Leone war crimes court convicts three former guerrilla leaders

[JURIST] The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] on Wednesday found three former guerrilla leaders guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity [press release] for their roles in the country's civil war. Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon, and Augustine Gbao are the three highest-ranking surviving Revolutionary United Front (RUF) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leaders, after founder Foday Sankoy died before being tried in 2003. Of 18 charges, Sesay and Kallon were found guilty of 16 offenses and Gbao was found guilty of 14 offenses. The SCSL was unable to convict any of the three men of murder or taking hostages, and Gbao was also found not guilty of conscripting child soldiers or murdering peacekeepers because his alleged actions were not sufficiently widespread and systematic to rise to the level of war crimes or crimes against humanity. The SCSL also held that they were not responsible for the January 1999 attack on Freetown which resulted in over 5,000 deaths. The three are expected to be sentenced within in one month. The SCSL announced [press release] last week that this ruling would be its last.

The Sierra Leone civil war [UNAMSIL backgrounder] ended in 2002 after eleven years, during which the RUF allegedly killed and mutilated civilians, forcibly recruited child soldiers, and forced many from their homes as villages were burned and destroyed. In 2002, the UN and Sierra Leone jointly established [text, PDF] the Special Court to try the leaders believed to be responsible. In October 2007 [JURIST report], the SCSL sentenced two former leaders of the Civil Defense Forces to serve six to eight years for "murder, cruel treatment, pillage, and collective punishment." In July 2007 [JURIST report], three former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council were sentenced to 45 years imprisonment on counts of rape, murder, mutilation, pillage, and abducting children to force them to work as soldiers and diamond laborers.

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