Three former leaders of Sierra Leone’s rebel Revolutionary United Front were found guilty today of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s decade-long civil war.
Three former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) members, Interim Leader Issa Hassan Sesay and RUF commander Morris Kallon were each found guilty on 16 of the 18 counts in the indictment. Former RUF Chief of Security Augustine Gbao was found guilty on 14 counts.
Their crimes included mutilation, terrorism, rape, forced marriage, sexual slavery and the enlistment of child soldiers
The presiding judge, in this case, was Judge Justice Pierre Boutet of Canada.
All three of the accused were found not guilty on count 16 (murder, a crime against humanity) and count 18 (the taking of hostages) in connection with the May 2000 abduction of United Nations peacekeepers.
Gbao was also found not guilty on count 12 (conscripting of child soldiers), and count 17 (murder, a war crime) in relation to the abduction of peacekeepers.
The violence was fuelled by illicit diamond sales and was dramatized in the 2006 film "Blood Diamond."
The Trial Chamber concluded that the three were not responsible for crimes committed in three districts and the Western Area.
The court was set up in 2003 after the end of the 11-year war that began in 1992. There have been five other peopel convicted.
"The greatest significance of this is that it recognizes that the people of Sierra Leone were victims of these horrendous crimes and it holds individuals accountable," said the Special Court's chief prosecutor Stephen Rapp
. "Beyond that we are also sending a message to this country, across the region and across the world that these crimes will not be tolerated."
This included the bloody January 1999 attack on Freetown which left over 5,000 dead. It is expected that sentencing will take place in the coming weeks.