Special Court for Sierra Leone sentences RUF rebels 08 Apr 2009
In the final trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown, three former RUF commanders have received sentences of between 25 and 52 years' imprisonment.

On 8 April 2009, the Special Court for Sierra Leone handed down sentences against Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon  and Augustine Gbao. In the highest sentence given by the Court, Sesay was sentenced to a total of 52 years’ imprisonment for his 16 convictions, which are to be served concurrently. Kallon will also serve a maximum of 39 years, while Gbao will spend 25 years in prison for his crimes.

The three former commanders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were found guilty in February 2009 of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their role in the civil war which ended in 1999. In the original indictment against the former rebels, two further accused, Foday Saybana Sankoh and Sam Bockarie, were charged with war crimes and crimes humanity, but their indictments were withdrawn following their deaths in 2003.

The sentence handed down by the Court is the final act in a trial which began in July 2004, and marks the end of all trial proceedings before the Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone, although any subsequent appeal by the prosecution or defence would be heard in the capital. The final case ongoing against Charles Taylor is also being tried under the jurisdiction of the Court, but is being held at the premises of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands for security reasons. On 9 April the prosecution in the Taylor case will give its oral response to the defence motion for acquittal.

Hybrid court

Prior to the sentences of Sesay, Kallon and Gbao, the highest penalty previously given by the Special Court had been 50 years’ imprisonment in July 2007 for both Santigie Borbor Kanu and Alex Tamba Brima, former members of the RUF-aligned rebel group, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). During ten years of civil war in Sierra Leone the AFRC and RUF rebels, allegedly supported by Charles Taylor, fought the forces of the pro-government Civil Defense Forces (CDF). Leaders of the CDF, Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa have also been convicted of crimes against humanity for their actions during the war.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established in 2002 by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations to try those bearing the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and the law of Sierra Leone within the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996. By having jurisdiction to prosecute crimes under both international and national laws, and with Chambers composed of both international and judges from Sierra Leone, the Court became the first ever ‘hybrid’ court established by the United Nations.

On 18 March 2009 an agreement was signed between Kigali and the Special Court for Sierra Leone in which Rwanda agreed to receive persons convicted and sentenced to between 15 and 50 years.

Issa Hassan Sesay
Morris Kallon
Augustine Gbao
The RUF Accused

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Court documents /
Documents juridiques

Consolidated Indictment
2 August 2006

Pros. v. I.H. Sesay et al.: Judgement Summary
25 February 2009

Commentary / Commentaire

The Special Court for Sierra Leone's Appeals Judgment in the AFRC case
L'arrêt dans l'affaire AFRC du Tribunal pénal spécial pour la Sierra Leone
Roland Adjovi

Related news items / Informations complémentaires

Guilty verdicts in RUF case

Condamnation des RUF à Freetown
25 February 2009

Sierra Leone rebels sentenced to up to 52 years
8 April 2009