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Sierra Leone court to hand down first war crimes verdict.

Sierra Leone court to hand down first war crimes verdict.

UPDATE: As expected,  charges were handed down to the defendants for 11 of the 14 counts today. BBC has more here.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) is expected to hand down its first convictions for war crimes today. Three former militia leaders are to be convicted on a 14-count indictment for crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law. The SCSL was established jointly by the government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations to try those responsible for grave atrocities committed during the decade long civil conflict there. It is the first such joint tribunal established and the first where the accused sit where the crimes occurred.

Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santige Borbor Kanu face 14 charges of war crimes, including extermination of civilians, enslavement, use of child soldiers, and sexual slavery. Among the charges include the alleged use of dismemberment as an outrage to personal dignity. The three men were former commanders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), which staged a coup in 1997 and later joined with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to gain control over Sierra Leone's diamond trade.

According to the indictment, "captured woman and girls were raped AFRC/RUF also physically mutilated men, woman and children, including carving "AFRC' and "RUF' on their bodies."

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who allegedly backed the rebel groups, has also been implicated for war crimes. He is facing special prosecution at The Hague due to fears of uprising during his trial if it were to occur in Freetown.

It is estimated that 50,000 were killed in the conflict in Sierra Leone.

Commentary: This is a model system of international reconciliation regimes. The Special Court sits in the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown, and includes judges appointed by the United Nations, Sierra Leone, and the United States. The court also holds all members in custody, except Charles Taylor and those who have died prior to judgment by the court. The Khmer Rouge system is similar to the Special Court, however, the Khmer Rouge system is accused of being tainted by those sympathetic to the convicted.





Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors