21 June 2007 The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict has welcomed the judgment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), which found three former rebel leaders guilty of multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including the recruitment of child soldiers – during the West African country’s prolonged civil war in the 1990s.
Yesterday’s judgements were not only the first from the Special Court, but they marked the first time that an international tribunal has ruled on the charge of recruitment of child soldiers into an armed force.
“This first verdict sends a strong signal to the perpetrators and it will have a crucial deterrence effect,” said UN Special Representative Radhika Coomaraswamy, stressing that such crimes need to stop. “This first triple conviction will motivate the international community to pursue its fight against impunity.”
Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu were each found guilty on 11 charges, including committing acts of terrorism, murder, rape and enslavement and conscripting children under the age of 15 into armed groups. A sentencing hearing has been set for 16 July.
The SCSL, the second international war crimes tribunal established in Africa, was mandated to try those bearing the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian and Sierra Leonean law within Sierra Leone's borders since 30 November 1996.