A decisive finding for the Taylor trial

03 March 2008 by Thierry Cruvellier

On February 22, the Appeals Chamber in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) issued its first judgment, confirming the sentence of three important leaders of the former military junta of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between 1997 and 2000. The judges also added a new crime: forced marriages. Most importantly, they found that Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu were part of a joint criminal enterprise, a decisive finding for the Taylor trial.

An hour and a half after starting to read the mostly dry, technical verdict, the appeals judges finally recounted the terrors perpetrated by the AFRC when it was in power from May 1997 to February 1998 and the following two years of bloody guerrilla warfare. "Brima, Kamara and Kanu have been found responsible for some of the most heinous, brutal and atrocious crimes ever recorded in human history. Innocent civilians—babies, children, men and women of all ages—were murdered by being shot, hacked to death, burned alive, beaten to death. Women and young girls were gang raped to death. (...) Sons were forced to rape mothers, brothers were forced to rape sisters. Pregnant women were killed by having their stomachs slit open and the fetus removed merely to settle a bet amongst the troops as to the gender of the fetus. Men were disemboweled and their intestines stretched across a road to form a barrier. Human heads were placed on sticks on either side of the road to mark such barriers. Hacking off the limbs of innocent civilians was commonplace.

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