, FREETOWN, Apr 8 – The Special Court for Sierra Leone will hand down sentences against three rebel leaders convicted of overseeing atrocities committed during the brutal civil war in the West African country.
The sentencing may be the final act in what is to be the last ever trial of the UN-backed court to be held in Freetown.
In February the court ruled that three former leaders of the United Revolutionary Front (RUF), Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao were guilty of for ordering and carrying out a spree of killings, rapes and mutilations during one of the most brutal civil conflicts in recent history.
By the time the decade-long conflict in Sierra Leone ended in 2001, some 120,000 people had been killed and tens of thousands more had had their arms, legs, noses or ears cut off.
The RUF fought with rival factions over Sierra Leone’s rich diamond mining fields to get so-called blood diamonds to fund the warfare and forcibly recruited child soldiers feared by the civilian population for their reputed cruelty.
In March prosecutors asked for 60-year sentences for Sesay and Kallon and 40-years in prison for Gbao.
The defence of the three men have all appealed for leniency in sentencing.
While the UN-backed court cannot hand down a death penalty there is no limit on the length of jail time to which they can sentence convicted defendants.
The highest penalty the court has handed down so far were 50-year jail terms for two leaders of another rebel group.
The sentencing of the three RUF leaders marks the final stage in the last trial to be held in Freetown by Sierra Leone tribunal. Both the prosecution and the defence can still launch an appeal which will also be heard in Freetown before the court closes its doors in the Sierra Leonean capital permanently.
The ongoing trial of Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor has been moved to the Netherlands for security reasons. It is not known when the Special Court for Sierra Leone will wrap up the case against Taylor in The Hague.