Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Incredibly clement sentences for pro-government militia leaders at Sierra Leone Special Court

The Special Court for Sierra Leone has handed down two very light sentences, of six years and eight years, following the lengthy trial of the CDF leaders. These were pro-government militias but the atrocities they perpetrated were every bit as terrible as those committed by the so-called rebels.
For example, one of the defendants, Fofana, was found guilty for failing to prevent his subordinates from perpetrating such crimes as ‘the gruesome murder of two women in Koribondo who had sticks inserted and forced into their genitals until they cam out of their mouths. The women were then disemboweled, and while their guts were used as checkpoints, parts of their entrails were eaten.’ (para.46) Other crimes for which Fofana was found guilty included his direct participation in murders and other brutality on a large scale, committed against innocent children. Six years!
Kondewa was found guilty, amongst other things, of abducting children of 11 and 13 into the militias, where they were trained to commit crimes of great brutality. Kondewa was also found guilty of personally shooting a town commander. Eight years!
The decisive point seems to be the Chamber’s conclusion that the accused were motivated by a desire to promote democracy in the country, and to restore the elected government which had been overthrown by the rebels.
One of the judges (the one appointed by Sierra Leone, not surprisingly) voted to acquit them altogether. He said that defence of the State was the supreme law, and they were following it. I shudder to think how he might have voted at Nuremberg.
I am not a fan of harsh sentences, but this sounds to me to be rather on the light scale. By comparison, General Strugar, a Serb military leader who failed to stop soldiers from shelling the town of Dubrovnik, resulting in a few civilian deaths, got seven years.
The Trial Chamber wrote: ‘It is out view that a manifestly repressive sentence, rather than providing the deterrent objective which it is meant to achieve, will be counterproductive to the Sierra Leonean society in that it will neither be consonant with nor will it be in the overall interests and ultimate aims and objectives of justice, peace, and reconciliation that this Court is mandated by UN Security Council Resoluton 1315, to achieve.’ (para. 95). But if that is the case, why don’t the rebels also benefit from this same philosophy? Three of the rebels have already been sentenced, to exceedingly long terms of 45 and 50 years in prison. Admittedly, that was by a different Trial Chamber.
The recent sentencing decision is available at:

1 comment:

McKeown said...

Why is it not surprising that the Sierra Leonean appointed judge voted to acquit?