Global Policy Forum

UN-backed War Crimes Court in Sierra Leone

Agence France-Presse
February 18, 2004

The UN-backed war crimes court for Sierra Leone will open its doors March 10 ahead of trials of nine defendants in custody for alleged crimes against humanity during the West African state's decade-long rebel war, officials said Wednesday. The court will hold special sessions in early March for the prosecution and defense to present a status report of their pre-trial preparations to the judges, who will then fix a date for trials, court spokeswoman Alison Cooper told local radio. Observers say trials are likely to commence in late March or early April. Eleven people including former Liberian president Charles Taylor have been indicted by the court for crimes against humanity and other atrocities committed during the war considered among the most brutal in modern history. Some 200,000 people were killed and many thousands more had their limbs lopped off in the war that ended in 2001. The court ruled in late January that the nine defendants already in custody would be tried in three groups to speed up the process and ease the strain of testifying on witnesses likely to be called before the tribunal. Defendants will be tried based on their alliances to either the notorious rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Civil Defense Forces (Kamajor) pro-government militia, or the renegade soldiers of the Sierra Leone army known as the AFRC. The court has yet to set a date to rule on a defense motion to quash the indictment against Taylor, who is accused of backing the RUF in their violent campaign in exchange for so-called "blood diamonds". The defense has argued the indictment is invalid because it was issued when Taylor was a sitting president, and has questioned the legitimacy of the court. Taylor fled into exile in August under an agreement to bring peace to Liberia after 14 years of war.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on the Special Court for Sierra Leone
More Information on Charles Taylor


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