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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
First S Leone war crime sentences
Kadiatu Fofanah, who lost her legs during the civil war in Sierra Leone (file)
Rebel forces raped and mutilated defenceless innocent civilians
Sierra Leone's UN-backed war crimes court has sentenced three leaders of a militia for war crimes including murder, rape and mutilating civilians.

Alex Tamba Brima and Santigie Borbor Kanu were jailed for 50 years each and Brima Kamara for 45 years.

All three were senior members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council that toppled the government in 1997.

They are the first sentences given by the court, following the end of Sierra Leone's civil war five years ago.

They are also the first people convicted by an international court of recruiting child soldiers.


The three defendants have the right to appeal.

If they lose, they are likely to serve their prison sentences in Europe rather than Sierra Leone because of security concerns, court officials said.

Special Court for Sierra Leone
Some say the UN-backed court has been too slow
The charges linked them to fighters, who raped women, burned villages, conscripted thousands of child soldiers and forced others to work as labourers in diamond mines.

"The three accused persons have committed violations of human rights in which civilians were mutilated, [and] other civilians were killed and burnt in their houses," Judge Julia Sebutinde said, passing sentence in the capital Freetown.

"They also were participants in abducting children for slavery and as child soldiers," she said.

After seizing power, the AFRC joined forces with the rebel Revolutionary United Front, before being driven out of the capital, Freetown by the West African peacekeeping force, Ecomog, in 1998.

The court has indicted a total of 12 people in connection with the war, including the former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is accused of backing the rebels.

Mr Taylor is on trial in The Hague because of fears that trying him in West Africa could jeopardise the new-found peace of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Critics say the UN-backed court has been too slow in delivering justice to the people of Sierra Leone.

Three of those indicted, including RUF leader Foday Sankoh, died before their verdicts were delivered.


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