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Sierra Leone Begins Indictments of War Crimes

On 10 March 2003 the Special Court for Sierra Leone announced its first indictments of seven people by the Special Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law falling within the jurisdiction of the Special Court. They are Foday Sankoh, former leader of the armed opposition Revolutionary United Front (RUF); Issa Hassan Sesay, a former leading RUF member; Alex Tamba Brima, a former member of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) which allied itself to the RUF following a military coup in May 1997; Morris Kallon, a former leading RUF member; Johnny Paul Koroma, former leader of the AFRC, elected to parliament in May 2002; Sam Bockarie ("Mosquito"), a leading RUF member; Samuel Hinga Norman, Minister of Internal Affairs, former National Coordinator of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF).
Further indictments are expected. The Prosecutor of the Special Court has 30 days to issue an indictment or request that the suspect be held for a further 30 days. If a suspect is not indicted after 90 days, they must be released.
The Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone has a number of guarantees to ensure a fair trial. These provisions, as well as internationally recognized guarantees for a fair trial, must be fully implemented in practice to ensure that all trials before the Special Court adhere to the highest standards of fairness.
In view of the horrific nature and scale of the abuses committed since November 1996 and the large proportion of the Sierra Leonean population directly affected by the crimes, it is important that there should be no presumption of guilt of those indicted. In accordance with international standards of fair trial, they have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the Special Court. All officials and staff of the Special Court should make every effort to ensure that this presumption is reflected in all public statements.

AI INDEX: AFR 51/001/2003 2 April 2003

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Copyright © Laura Rowe.