Sierra Leone war crimes court upholds sentences of former guerilla leaders

[JURIST] The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday upheld [press release, PDF] the convictions of three former rebel leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], in what is to be the final proceedings of the Freetown-based court. The SCSL upheld the convictions of former RUF Interim Leader Issa Hassan Sesay and Senior RUF Commander Morris Kallon [Trial Watch profiles] on each of 16 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for violations committed during Sierra Leone's 11 year civil war [BBC backgrounder]. The conviction of former RUF Security Chief Augustine Gbao [Trial Watch profile] was also upheld on 14 counts. The court affirmed convictions for forced marriages and attacks on UN peacekeepers, which were a first for an international tribunal, as well as employing child soldiers in the war. With the decision, the SCSL confirmed the prior prison sentences [JURIST report] of Sessay, Kallon, and Gbao. They had been given terms of 52, 40, and 25 years respectively.

The only remaining indictee of the SCSL is Former Liberian president Charles Taylor [case materials; JURIST news archive], who is currently facing war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. In July, Taylor denied war crimes allegations [JURIST report] while testifying in for the first time at his trial. Taylor faces 11 counts [indictment, PDF] of crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Conventions [materials], and other violations of international humanitarian law stemming from a "campaign to terrorize the civilian population" of Sierra Leone. Taylor also denied receiving jars full of diamonds by Liberian rebel forces. His defense claims that he could not have commanded rebel forces in Sierra Leone while acting as the president of Liberia. Taylor's trial began in Sierra Leone, but had been moved to The Hague [JURIST report] for security reasons.

 

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