Prosecutor welcomes sentences for Sierra Leonean ex-rebels by UN-backed court

The Prosecutor of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) today welcomed the sentences handed down to three men who led a rebel movement during the most brutal phase of the West African nation’s decade-long civil war.
“These sentences represent the gravity of the terrible atrocities for which these men have been held responsible,” said Stephen Rapp, Prosecutor of the Freetown-based SCSL.
“Most importantly, they honour the victims, the thousands of men, women and children of Sierra Leone, who suffered because of the acts of these individuals.”
Today`s sentencing follows the conviction in February of the former leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) on charges relating to, among others, terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery and use of child soldiers, and, for the first time in history, forced marriage and attacks against peacekeepers.
Former RUF Interim Leader Issa Hassan Sesay was sentenced to 52 years in prison, RUF commander Morris Kallon to 40 years and former RUF Chief of Security Augustine Gbao to 25 years.
In announcing the sentences, the Trial Chamber said it has weighed the “scale and brutality” of the crimes committed and the “vulnerability, number and suffering of victims,” noting that “civilians had been shot, killed, beaten to death, burned alive, hacked to death, raped, mutilated and enslaved.”
The Chamber also cited instances where men were disembowelled with their intestines used as checkpoints and civilians were forced to choose between saving their own lives or those of their families.
The judges` decisions have helped to “re-establish justice and the rule of law in Sierra Leone without which lasting peace and development is not possible,” Rapp stressed.
The judgment and sentencing phases of all three of the Court`s Freetown-based trials is over, and the trial against former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who has plead not guilty to the 11 counts of counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of international humanitarian law, is under way in The Hague.