‘Guilty’ Verdict Given to Three in Sierra Leone for War Crimes

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RAPAPORT… The United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone has found three ex-leaders of the former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The verdict was the first to convict ex-rebels for atrocities committed in Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war.

The ruling against Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu was passed June 20, 2007 and sentencing will be handed down on July 16. The men were found guilty on 11 of the 14 counts that they stood accused of.

Among the crimes for which they were found guilty, included murder, rape, mutilations and the conscription of children under age 15, marking the first time an international tribunal has ruled on the recruitment of child soldiers. The three men were cleared on charges of other inhumane acts, sexual slavery and any other form of sexual violence, and forced marriage.

A court spokesperson explained that a guilty verdict on just one of the charges was enough to sentence the men to prison, and they now face a maximum life prison sentence for the crimes they committed.

During the conflict, which occurred between 1991 and 2002, an estimated 100,000 people were killed, while a further 500,000 people were displaced in neighboring countries, and thousands of people had their arms or legs hacked off by the rebels. The rebels were largely funded by the illicit diamond trade.

The court will now look to its next dramatic event on June 25, when the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor continues in The Hague. While Brima, Kamara and Kanu were tried in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Taylor’s case was moved to the Netherlands due to its high profile and fears that it would reignite clashes in the war-torn west African region.

The United Nations-backed special court for Sierra Leone has indicted eight other men on similar charges, allegedly associated with Sierra Leone’s three former warring factions – the AFRC, the Civil Defense Forces, and the Revolutionary United Front.

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