Friday, 17 April 2009

Revolutionary United Front Sentencing Judgment

The sentencing judgment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Revolutionary United Front case is now available: Late last year, I ran an item about the application for an arrest warrant directed against Sudanese rebels who had attacked peacekeepers. That application, by the way, is still pending. It included a discussion by the Prosecutor about the issue of gravity, given the relatively small number of victims. The Prosecutor said that there was something inherently serious about attacking peacekeeping troops. In this regard the assessment of gravity in the RUF judgment and the sentences are really interesting. The Trial Chamber has ruled that the inherent gravity of the criminal acts (attacks on UNAMSIL peacekeepers (none killed) ) are 'exceptionally high' (see paras. 188 – 202) and has imposed an accordingly harsh sentence. For intentionally directing an attack against peacekeepers, Sesay got 51 years, Kallon 40 years and Gbao 25 years.
I’ve been reading the RUF judgment on the merits and am struck by another issue. The narrative of the conflict in Sierra Leone has often been presented as a campaign driven by greedy diamond smugglers. Many have written that diamonds were the cause of the conflict. The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission took the view that diamonds may have fueled the conflict, in that they provided a financial base for the combatant factions, but that they were not the cause of the conflict. I had always thought that this analysis was somewhat different from the approach taken by the Prosecutor. However, as I read the RUF judgment, it tends to confirm the analysis of the Truth Commission. It notes that diamonds were used by all combatant factions as a source of funding, and explains that the rebels tried to conquer the diamond mining regions so as to deprive the government of its funding base. Nothing new here. It looks like all wars, where you try to choke the funding source of your enemy. But no confirmation of the idea that diamonds were the source of the civil war.
Thanks to Fidelma Donlon.

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