CDF: a "legitimate" cause

22 October 2007 by Thierry Cruvellier

You committed horrible crimes, but your struggle was legitimate and that makes a difference. That is essentially what the judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone said on October 9 when they sentenced two leaders of the former Civil Defense Forces (CDF), high priest Allieu Kondewa and war director Moinina Fofana to 7 and 8 years in prison. They had been found guilty of war crimes on August 2. This delicate judgment, which was part of the debate during the presidential campaign, gave validity to the notion that fighting for the return to democracy is not the same as fighting against it.

"Lawyers don't like a lot of things that seem important to most people." This teasing remark made by Heather Ryan, lawyer and long-time observer of international courts, undoubtedly captures rather well the reaction that the judges' ruling will provoke in Freetown: repulsion in the small world of international law and appeased understanding among many in Sierra Leone.

Principle of "necessity"

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