Sierra Leone Tribunal Starts Proceedings

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Thursday, May 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On March 15, 2003, Foday Sankoh, formerly an army corporal who commanded the Revolutionary United Front that rebelled in a civil war in 1991, was brought before the Ad Hoc Tribunal for Sierra Leone. Mr. Sankoh is one of seven individuals indicated by the ad hoc international tribunal. The prosecutor has charged the defendants with crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, extermination, and other acts of terror. During the civil war 50,000 people died. Fighters, especially rebels, allegedly hacked limbs off thousands of persons. In January 2002, the war was declared finished after U.N. and especially British troops finally produced an uneasy truce and disarmed 47,000 combatants. Seated in a wheelchair, Mr. Sankoh did not reply to Judge Benjamin Itoe of Cameroon who inquired three times whether he was Sankoh. He proceeding was adjourned until March 20, pending a medical and psychological examination. The Ad Hoc Tribunal for War Crimes in Sierra Leone was delayed for years while preparations were made to organize the Tribunal. In particular, time was required to develop procedural and evidentiary rules, arrange financing, and select judges and prosecutors. The need to hold proceedings outside the country in a secret location illustrates continuing security problems in Sierra Leone.