After a four hour delay the Presiding Judge of trial chamber one Justice Pierre Boutet yesterday delivered a one and a half hour summary of the Chambers findings on the three top former leaders of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
The three had been standing trial on 18 count charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international law.
First accused Issa Sesay was wearing a cream coloured shirt with dark crossed stripes tucked neatly into his trousers. What looked like a protruding stomach was clearly visible. He also had a notebook in front of him. He seemed to be listening attentively through his ear phones when the judgement was being read.
Issa Sesay was found guilty on 16 of the 18 charges and not guilty on two (16 & 18). Justice Boutet mentioned that Issa participated in the joint criminal enterprise by among others being a member of the supreme council.
He was also found guilty of enslavement of civilians in the diamond mines.
Second accused Morris Kallon was by far the best dressed in a light green coloured suit with a white and blue striped shirt and a light grey coloured tie.
He is now looking a bit on the plump side and looked a bit academic in his reading glasses.
He sat on the edge of his seat with his hands clasped together and resting on the table.
The eyes shifted from one end to the other as he heard his conviction being read out.
He too was judged to have committed enslavement and was found guilty on 16 counts and freed on two (16&18)
Third accused Augustine Gbao sat with his hands clasped in front of his face and his elbows resting on the table in what looked like a pensive mood with a slight frown on his face. Other times he folded his hands akimbo in front of his chest. He was dressed in a white Polo shirt with two black stripes running down his shoulders to his elbows.
He had a note book in front of him. Perhaps the most lucky of the three Gbao was convicted on 14 counts and freed on four (12,16,17,18).
What however was interesting was the fact that the Presiding Judge Pierre Boutet dissented on 12 (1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10,11,13,14) of the 14 guilty verdicts. For his defense counsel however a not guilty verdict on count 12 which was conscripting child soldiers was very significant Counts 16, 17 and 18 had to do with attacks on UNAMSIL personnel – unlawful killing (16), violence to life, health and physical and mental well being of persons, in particular murder (17) and for the abductions and holding as hostage, taking as hostages(18).
Honourable Paul Kamara of Bo District after the trial said “it was a fair trial to my understanding” he however stated that actions needed to be taken beyond the judgement saying “if somebody is aggrieved and you don’t go and talk to that individual or compensate him then he will still be aggrieved.”
Amputee Mohamed Bah said “I feel so happy because the truth is coming out now, and those guys did more than what they wanted to do but justice is catching up on them and we appreciate that very much.”
Family members declined to talk but Issa Sesay’s lawyer Wayne Jordash said he was “deeply disappointed”
He stated that “many civilians of Sierra Leone came forward at great risk to themselves to attest to Mr Sesay’s attempt to prevent or punish crimes and none of that appears to be reflected in the judgement.
We ran our defense case which lasted for over six months so it was somewhat surprising to be convicted in such a massive way.” Mr Jordash however stated that they were going to examine the judgement and appeal.
Sentencing will take place in the next few weeks. The lightest sentence handed down by the court is 15 years and the strongest is 50 years.
Proceedings on this trial commenced on 5th July 2004 and concluded on 24th June 2008.
The trial chamber sat for 308 days and admitted 437 exibits and also heard evidences from 85 prosecution witnesses, 59 witnesses for the Sesay defense, 22 witnesses for the Kallon defense and 8 witnesses for the Gbao defense. In all, the chamber heard evidence from 171 witnesses during this trial.
The casefile of the trial consists of 32,096 pages which does not include the transcripts recorded during the proceedings of the 308 trial days
By Kelvin Lewis