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Cablegate: Special Court for Sierra Leone Delivers First Verdict

VZCZCXRO1030
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0387 1711938
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201938Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1159
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0243
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 0072
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000387

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W, DRL, S/WCI

E.O. 12958
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM PINR SL
SUBJECT: SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE DELIVERS FIRST VERDICT


1. (U) On June 20, three judges in Trial Chamber II of the Special
Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) delivered a guilty verdict against
three former leaders of the renegade Armed Forces Revolutionary
Council (AFRC) who were on trial accused of war crimes and other
serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra
Leonean law.

2. (U) The AFRC were renegade soldiers from the Sierra Leonean Army
that overthrew the Government of Sierra Leone on May 25, 1997, and
subsequently entered into an alliance and joined forces with the
Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the rebel group that invaded
Sierra Leone from Liberia in 1991, with Charles Taylor's support. A
third armed faction, the Civil Defense Forces (CDF), was a
pro-government paramilitary force that fought against the combined
forces of the AFRC and the RUF. A verdict in the CDF trial is
expected in July.

3. (U) During the trial, which began in March 2005, the prosecution
called 59 witnesses to the stand, while the defense called 87
witnesses. The case hearings were concluded on October 27, 2006.

4. (U) The three former AFRC leaders, Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy
Kamara and Santigie Kanu, were all found guilty of 11 of 14 counts
against them. This is the first verdict the SCSL has delivered since
its inception in 2002. The defendants were not convicted of sexual
slavery as a crime against human dignity, but were found guilty of
sexual slavery under another count.

5. (U) Before reading the verdict, Justice Julia Sebutinde, a
British-trained Ugandan lawyer, gave a brief recap of the court's
mandate and trial proceedings before asking each of the accused to
stand up. As she read the verdict, the accused appeared
expressionless, as if resigned to their fate. Judge Sebutinde
announced that sentencing had been scheduled for July 16.

6. (SBU) Prosecutor Stephen Rapp told the Ambassador that although
he does not yet have the text of the judgment, he intends to appeal
the court's opinion that the prosecution's accusation of a joint
criminal enterprise was improperly presented. Although this did not
affect the verdict, Rapp considers this a critical point of
contention for other trials, particularly as it has been used
effectively in other war crimes courts.

7. (U) There was a significant security presence at the Court. Those
in attendance included Sierra Leone human rights organizations,
journalists, victims, and family members of the accused. Reactions
in the court room mostly supported the verdict, as did people's
reactions on the streets of Freetown.

8. (U) The three judges from Trial Chamber II are scheduled to
depart Freetown tomorrow for The Hague to resume the Charles Taylor
case on June 25. Prosecutor Rapp will remain in Freetown. Brenda
Hollis will lead the prosecution team in The Hague. That trial is
expected to conclude by the end of 2008, with a verdict to follow in
the first half of 2009.

HULL

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