Three senior leaders of the Sierra Leone rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), were sentenced to long prison terms by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on Wednesday. Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao were found guilty in February of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the internal armed conflict that took place in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002.
The RUF’s interim leader, Issa Sesay, was sentenced to nearly 700 years in prison. The judge ruled that separate sentences for 16 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity be served concurrently, meaning Issa Sesay will be incarcerated for a maximum of 52 years.
Former RUF commander Morris Kallon will serve a maximum of 39 years. Commander Augustine Gbao will spend 25 years in prison.
Amnesty International said in February that the convictions were a positive, but still insufficient, step in the fight against impunity in that country. The organization noted, however, that only a handful of those suspected of bearing the greatest responsibility in the armed conflict in Sierra Leone have been tried by the Special Court.
Amnesty International said that many others – numbering perhaps in the several hundreds – must be investigated in Sierra Leone or in any other state willing to exercise universal jurisdiction and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials without the possibility of the death penalty.
The SCSL Trial Chamber found in February that Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao are criminally responsible for unlawful killings, rape, forced marriage, acts of terrorism, attacks on peacekeepers, enslavement and other inhuman acts, among other crimes – reinforcing international condemnation of crimes of sexual violence.