The Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone has ruled that fighting for a just cause is not a mitigating factor in sentencing for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the so-called CDF case, involving pro-government militias, a majority of the Trial Chamber had considered the fact that the two accused were fighting to defend a democratically elected government in imposing relatively light sentences, of six and eight years imprisonment. This compared dramatically with terms of 45 and 50 years that were handed out to the anti-government rebels. These are the highest fixed term custodial sentences ever imposed by an international criminal tribual. The Trial Chamber judge who had been appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone actually voted to acquit, saying fighting a just war was actually a full defense.
Yesterday's ruling by the Appeals Chamber is a healthy clarification. Although some of the convictions were reversed, the sentences were increased to 15 and 20 years. The full judgment doesn't seem to be available yet, so this comment is based upon a press release from the Court: http://www.sc-sl.org/Press/pressrelease-052808.pdf.