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Friday, 28 July, 2000, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Sierra Leone backs tribunal plans
Child with amputated hand
Limb amputation, even of children, was a favourite terror tactic
United Nations moves to set up a special court for Sierra Leone to try those responsible for systematic violations of humanitarian law, have been welcomed by the government.

Sierra Leone Information Minister Julius Spencer said that a United States-sponsored draft resolution proposing a tribunal was in line with requests by them for a process that had an international dimension.


It is very important that the people - Foday Sankoh and his henchmen - who have committed these war crimes be brought to justice

Richard Holbrooke
He said that the tribunal should be restricted to dealing with rebel leaders including Foday Sankoh, the detained head of the Revolutionary United Front, who Mr Spencer said must be held to account.

The rebels have been accused of using a deliberate policy of cutting off peoples' limbs to strike terror amongst the civilian community.

American ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke says Security Council members generally endorsed the proposal, and he hoped a vote on it would be taken next week.

There was an outcry by human rights campaigners when a peace agreement signed last year included a blanket amnesty for all those responsible.

But since May, when the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) started killing and abducting UN peacekeepers, the international community and the Sierra Leone Government have looked at the question of justice once again.

Regional hearings

The proposed independent special court will operate under both Sierra Leone domestic law and international humanitarian law.

The hearings will be heard either in Freetown or in one of Sierra Leone's neighbouring countries.

"It is very important that the people - Foday Sankoh and his henchmen - who have committed these war crimes be brought to justice," Mr Holbrooke said.

Sierra Leone rebel leader Foday Sankoh
Foday Sankoh could be tried in SIerra Leone
"The mixed Sierra Leone-international character of this court will strengthen the ability of the government of Sierra Leone by enhancing it with an international backing" he added.

Ambassador Holbrooke says the court will not recognise the amnesty included in last year's peace agreement, although the draft resolution states that it will focus in particular on those responsible for crimes committed during the past few months.

The special court is not expected to be as large or as unwieldy as the UN's war crimes tribunals which deal with the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

However, those convicted by the court will be able to take their cases to an appeals chamber in The Hague which already deals with proceedings referred to it by the other UN tribunals.

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The BBC's Mark Devenport
"The patrol came under fire from suspected RUF rebels"
Sierra Leone in crisis

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27 Jul 00 | Africa
17 Jul 00 | Africa
12 May 00 | Africa
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