Long Sentences for Atrocities in Sierra Leone

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An international war crimes court in Freetown, Sierra Leone, sentenced three rebel leaders on Wednesday to long prison terms for atrocities committed during the country’s decade-long civil war of the 1990s. The conflict became notorious because of its particular brutality, including the hacking off of the limbs of uncounted civilians, the use of child soldiers and the digging for diamonds to pay for guns and ammunition.

The sentences handed out at the Special Court for Sierra Leone said that the crimes for which the three men were responsible were of a “massive scale” and that their impact had been enormous. Judges cited an instance in which “men were disemboweled and their intestines used as makeshift checkpoints,” and one in which a boy had all four limbs hacked off and was then thrown into a pit and left to die. They said civilians “were made to choose between their lives or those of family members.”

The court sentenced Issa Hassan Sesay to 52 years, Morris Kallon to 40 years, and Augustine Gbao to 25 years. Mr. Sesay and Mr. Kallon were part of the country’s ruling council; Mr. Gbao was a rebel commander. The three were considered the most senior surviving leaders of the Revolutionary United Front.

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