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Sierra Leone RUF rebels sentenced

From left to right: Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao at the court in Freetown
The RUF trio committed atrocities during the 1991-2001 civil war

An international tribunal has jailed three former Sierra Leone rebel leaders for a total of nearly 120 years.

All three were senior leaders in the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and were convicted of overseeing atrocities during Sierra Leone's civil war.

Issa Sesay was sentenced to 52 years, Morris Kallon to 40 years and Augustine Gbao to 25 years.

They were found guilty in February of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the 1991-2001 conflict.

"The chamber concluded that the inherent gravity of the criminal acts for which Sesay, Kallon and Gbao have been convicted is exceptionally high," the judges said.

Tactics favoured by the rebels included amputating hands and arms or carving the initials RUF into the bodies of their victims.

'Massive scale'

It is the last case to be held in the capital, Freetown, at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Children were deprived of normal education and some of them had the letters of the RUF branded on them as if they were the organisation's property
Judge Pierre Boutet

The RUF trial began in mid-2004 and the court heard about the rebel commanders' role in the conflict.

"The crimes were committed on a massive scale... Sierra Leoneans were raped, enslaved, hacked to death and brutalised," the AFP news agency quotes presiding judge Pierre Boutet as saying.

"The impact of the crimes on the Sierra Leonean society has been enormous," he added.

The RUF was notorious for using the so-called Small Boys Units - child soldiers forcibly recruited and issued with AK-47 assault rifles - who had a reputation for particular cruelty among the civilian population.

RUF SENTENCES
Issa Sesay : 52 years, 16 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity
Morris Kallon : 40 years, 16 counts of warcrimes and crimes against humanity
Augustine Gbao , 25 years, 14 counts of warcrimes and crimes against humanity

"Children were deprived of normal education and some of them had the letters of the RUF branded on them as if they were the organisation's property," Mr Boutet said.

By the time the conflict ended, tens of thousands of people had been killed while tens of thousands were left mutilated, their arms, legs, noses or ears cut off.

Thirteen people were originally indicted by the tribunal, but RUF rebel leader Foday Sankoh and his deputy commander Sam Bockarie died before coming to trial.

When the RUF leaders were found guilty in February, the judges concluded they "significantly contributed" to a joint criminal enterprise with former Liberian President Charles Taylor to control the diamond fields of Sierra Leone to finance their warfare.

Mr Taylor faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to his role in the conflict. His trial has been moved to The Hague for security reasons.

Earlier this week, his lawyers called for the dismissal of the charges saying the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence of his link with the abuses.



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