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RUF Special Court Indictees Convicted
By Abdul Karim Kabia & Augustine Samba
Feb 26, 2009, 17:22
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The Trial Chamber of the United Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone has handed down judgments against leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), convicting all accused persons.

Isssa-Sesay: Guilty as charged

RUF Leaders Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon, and Augustine Gbao were yesterday Wednesday 25th February 2009 convicted with war crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape, enslavement, child recruitment and terrorizing the civilian population.

Morris-Kallon: Guilty as charged

The pronouncement of sentences is expected to be done in March this year, by which time all parties concerned are expected to have made submissions on sentencing.

Augustine-Gbao: Guilty as charged

The final stage in the case will be the appeals phase.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor of Special Court for Sierra Leone, Stephen Rapp has welcomed the convictions of the three rebel leaders.

A press release issued yesterday by the Office of the Prosecutor quoted Stephen Rapp as saying that "todays judgment recognizes the terrible crimes committed against the innocent people of Sierra Leone. It respects the suffering of the multitude of victims who were mutilated or enslaved, murdered or raped, and those rendered homeless or destitutes. It does this in a review of evidence that concludes that these individual leaders were responsible for some of most serious crimes known to humankind".

According to Rapp, the conviction of the rebel leaders on war crime of acts of terrorism against the civilian population recognizes that their targets were not military based or enemy soldiers but innocent men, women and children. "It means that these men chose to commit acts so horrible against persons so innocent in order to frighten the population into submission".

The press release pointed out that the court also convicted two of the three leaders for the use of child soldiers the employment of those under 15 in a force where they would be ordered to maim and to murder.

"This court today for the first time in world history convicted each of these individuals of forced marriage as a separate crime against humanity. In doing so it recognizes the very deep and long lasting suffering inflicted upon women through conscription as bush wives during the Sierra Leone conflict", the release coated Rapp as saying.

The release maintained further that "of great significance in the conflict zones of the world, this court also for the first time in history convicted individuals of a specific war crime of attack on peacekeepers. This recognizes that peacekeepers were targeted during the Sierra Leone conflict. It sends a message that may deter such attacks against the men and women who are protecting individuals, restoring security, and keeping the peace across the globe".

Meanwhile, another press release issued by Amnesty International has described the judgment as a positive, but still insufficient step in the fight against impunity in Sierra Leone. The release stated that "these guilty verdicts send a clear message to the international community in general and the perpetrators of crimes against Africans in particular, that those responsible for crimes under international law will not go unpunished".

The organization noted, however, that only a handful of those suspected of bearing the greatest responsibility in the armed conflict in Sierra Leone have been tried by the Special Court. Amnesty International said many others, numbering perhaps in several hundreds, must be investigated in Sierra Leone or in any other state willing to exercise universal jurisdiction and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials without the possibility of the death penalty.

The release urged that "the Government of Sierra Leone must set aside the impunity provisions contained in the Lome Accord and make all crimes under international, criminal under national law. Otherwise, victims will be forced to file complaints in other states where extraterritorial jurisdiction, including universal jurisdiction, is permitted".

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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