The three convicted former members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) have in their pleas of mitigation asked Sierra Leoneans to forgive them for whatever atrocities they had committed during the reign of their government.
Alex Tamba Brima aka Gullit, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu aka 55 when asked by Presiding Judge Julia Sebutinde of Trial Chamber II whether they had anything to say after their legal counsels had pleaded for their sentences to be reduced,
Gullit asked the people they have hurt to have mercy on him.
In his plea Bazzy said “I am just a young Sierra Leonean who joined the army to fight for my people not against them. I am not Charles Taylor, nor Johnny Paul Koroma who bears the greatest responsibilities. I rely on the experience of you [judges] for the judgment. I am saying sorry for all those who lost their lives during this war.”
“I pray that as you have come to seek justice in Sierra Leone what we are asking from you who are sitting up there, I know that you have children just like us.
I know that whatever the Prosecution has said was not what operated. What we are praying for now is peace and reconciliation. I want to say that this is a highly political court. We are soldiers who were trained to fight and protect the people. We don’t know Taylor or Gadaffi and others who fueled the war in the country but we are now facing the trial. To you Justice Sebutinde you are an African from Uganda and you are aware of what has happening here as we were under supervision. The court says those who bear the greatest responsibility and it should not have been three of us alone the ECOMOG, everybody, civil society were all angry in Sierra Leone. Consider your good office to give judgment and even what the Prosecution had said as they are here to Prosecute. As I’m standing here a Prosecution witness is presently campaigning with the ruling Political Party. We joined the army to fight against the RUF and now we are going to pay the price for peace” these were the words of the third accused Santigie Borbor Kanu.
The prosecution for their part submitted that the material tendered is not intended to shock the Trial Chamber’s clarification, as the sentence reflects the crimes of all the accused.
Karim Agha talking about the superior responsibility said the accused were trained in the army to protect the civilians but they used their professionalism to turn against the civilians.
About aggravating circumstances, the Prosecutor said that many victims were vulnerable persons and that the accused aimed at spreading terror among the civilian population.
In his own submission Kojo Graham defence counsel for the first accused said that there is need for reconciliation and forgiveness, stressing that the principal architect Johnny Paul Koroma is yet to be brought to justice and this should be considered by the judges when giving sentence.
He stated that AFRC combatants have been reintegrated into the army he pleaded that the Judges “temper justice with mercy as to err is human and to forgive is divine.”
He also pleaded for a shorter sentence as this is to foster reconciliation.
Defence counsel for the second accused Kojo Daniels further urged the judges to issue a sentence which will enable his client return to his community again, sit with his people and atone for his crime.
The defence counsel holds that sentence request by the Prosecution is too long and not in line with the practice of the ICTR.
In his own submission Professor Knoops who is representing 55 said that the training which Kanu received in the army was not to command troops but how to use a rifle, and that while they were in the jungle he was asked to take care of the women and children and so he was there for the weak and defenseless.
He stressed that Kanu regrets all what happened to the people and like many people is seeking for a peaceful life. He added that the prosecution did not mention Kanu as a commander and therefore the judges should consider that when delivering sentence.