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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
Fears for Sankoh's health
Foday Sankoh
The treatment in Sierra Leone will cost $600,000

The international war tribunal in Sierra Leone has said that the country's former rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, is in need of urgent medical treatment.

At a news conference in Freetown on Wednesday the United Nations court registrar Robin Vincent said the tribunal hopes to send its most notorious prisoner abroad for medical treatment.

Doctors treating Mr Sankoh say that his condition is deteriorating by the day and that he needs to be flown out of the country where his medical needs can be met.

They say that he is incapable of walking, talking or even of feeding himself and he cannot recognise his immediate surroundings.

Major obstacles

The BBC's reporter in Freetown, Lansana Fofana, says the court officials acknowledge the gravity of Foday Sankoh's condition, but are faced with a major obstacle in finding a country that is willing to accept the rebel leader even temporarily for treatment.

The UN Security Council has refused to lift the travel ban imposed on Mr Sankoh until a country that is willing to receive him, gives assurances the international organisation that it will not attempt to harbour the prisoner.

Foday Sankoh
Mr Sankoh in May 2000

Mr Sankoh, believed to be in his 70s, founded the Revolutionary United Front rebel movement that gained international infamy for chopping off the hands, feet, ears and noses of civilians during a ten year terror campaign.

He and some of the RUF rebels were indicted in early March by the UN tribunal after spending two years in prison. He was then reported to be suffering from partial stoke and mental instability.

In April Mr Sankoh was moved from the UN detention centre on the island of Bonthe to Choithrams hospital in western Freetown, but his health has since deteriorated.

His current medical condition casts doubts on his fitness to stand trial.

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