The mixed national-international tribunal set up in the wake of Sierra Leone's civil war returned its 1st verdicts yesterday, finding 3 rebel leaders guilty on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This 1st judgment by the Special Court for Sierra Leone also constituted the 1st international convictions for conscripting child soldiers and forced marriage as crimes against humanity. (A pathbreaking work on the 2d crime is Forced Marriage: Rwanda’s Secret Revealed, 7 UC Davis Journal of International Law & Policy 197 (2001), by Monika Kalra Varma).
Reading the verdict at yesterday's session was Justice Julia Sebutinde (left) of Uganda, Presiding Judge of Trial Chamber II. The other members of the panel -- now adjudicating charges against former Liberian President Charles Taylor -- were Justices Teresa Doherty (right) of Northern Ireland and Richard Lussick of Samoa.
In the instant case, Trial Chamber II adjudged defendants Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santigie Borbor Kanu. Each had helped lead the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, which, along with the Revolutionary United Front, had wreaked mayhem in the Western African country throughout much of the 1990s. The Court reports that in addition to crimes just mentioned, these 3 also were found guilty of acts of terrorism, collective punishments, murder as a crime against humanity, murder as a war crime, rape. outrages upon personal dignity, physical violence as a war crime, enslavement, and sexual slavery and other sexual violence. (The 631-page judgment's available here.)
Allowing that the judgment's "'a positive signal,'' Amnesty International urged greater accountability for the atrocities of Sierra Leone's civil war; that is, more prosecutions of persons believed responsible, as well as compensation for victims of the violence.