The prosecution team of the Special Court has submitted a sentencing brief calling for a global punishment of 60 years jail term sentence each be imposed on Issa Sesay and Morris Kallon and 40 years for Augustine Gbao.
The former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leaders Issa Sesay and Morris Kallon were found guilty on 16 out of 18 count charges, and Augustine Gbao 14 out of 18 count charges.
Deputy Prosecutor Joseph F. Kamara in an interview with Awoko disclosed that “a manifest desire to debase victims and place them in situations of unimaginable mortification was frequently evident in the types of offences committed by the RUF and as such they deserve the highest punishment”.
These factors Mr Kamara said include the gravity of the offence, any aggravating circumstances, any mitigating circumstance and individual circumstances.
Speaking about the aggravating factor the Deputy Prosecutor said that “those are the factors which you take into consideration the manner in which and the nature of the offences and how the offences were committed. Such factors he said may include the violent and humiliating nature an act is being committed.”
A clear example Mr Kamara said, is the manner in which B.S. Massaquoi a former Mayor of Kenema Town council was beaten and stripped naked before he was killed and also the exploitation of women and children as aggravating factors.
“You also consider the vulnerability of the victims, children being targeted unduly and unnecessarily these are the factors one take into consideration when you look at the aggravating circumstances. And it is our submissions that the RUF in the manner in which they perpetrated these offences were in clear disregard for the fact that the women and children were involved and they really tried to debase their dignity as human beings.”
On mitigating factors, the Deputy Prosecutor said “you also look at the good character of the accused and also the cooperation of the accused with the prosecution and also the subsequent action of the accused”. He explained that there is a need to look at the role they played in the peace accord and also their effort and the contribution they made in time to bring peace … there will be need to examine all these factors. Mr Kamara noted that from their own position it is clear that the RUF does not have “any strong cases of good character on their part based on the evidence we have before the court and as such we will be arguing that there were no substantial mitigating factors with regards to good character.” He added that “for the cooperation with the prosecution we do not have any evidence and in the course of the trials that they cooperated with the prosecution. Talking about peace accord there is talk of a major role played by the accused particularly on the side of Issa Sesay. But we are saying that contrite hearts after the war and after the commission of the offence do not undo the quality of sentences that has to be meted out against the accused and so we still believe that they have to be punished severely for the types of crimes they committed.” Talking about the gravity of the jail terms the Deputy Prosecutor said that “we should also bear in mind that this war was started by the RUF and the greater number of victims that suffered in the hands of the RUF … we have to take that into consideration and their offences were not only widespread, but they were really out there to target and debase the basic human conscience of the Sierra Leonean.” During their case, the defence team for Issa Sesay presented high profile witnesses including former President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to prove mitigating circumstances of their client, this Mr Joseph Kamara said “invariably they are going to make that argument about Sesay having a good character, but good character only comes in after the act, they did not bring in good character in the course of the act during the time the offences were being meted out.”
He went on, “there is overwhelming evidence that Issa Sesay himself participated in beatings and assault occasioning in grievous bodily harm on innocent civilians and as such if even there is any evidence of good character it would out weigh the gravity of the offence of which they have been charged.” Speaking on the role of Issa Sesay in the peace process, the Deputy Prosecutor said that “they can bring that in as a mitigating factor that he (Issa) contributed to the peace at the end of the day. The prosecution will not necessarily deny in entirety that he may not have contributed to peace, but the position is that all these were after the commission of the offences and as such if he was going to be punished for the commission of the offences he would need to get the severe punishment for those types of offence for which he had done.”
Stressing that “the court may be inclined to take into consideration his effort in peace which probably they might decide to reduce the number of years but it is still the position of the prosecution that he deserves punishment to its fullest extent. Since whatever he did in terms of peace was after the act.” Questioned about whether the jail term demanded by the prosecution is not too much the Deputy Prosecutor said that “taking into consideration the gravity of these offences they committed, the aggravated circumstances of these offences, the number and the thousands of victims they left homeless, the thousand of victims that are left without fathers, and mothers, the thousands of amputees they’ve left without meaningful life, I don’t think 60 years is on the far side.”“What we want to see” he maintained is “that these people if they are going to come out will not pose a threat to the security and peace in this nation or to any other place they might find themselves. If the court decides to reduce the number of jail terms we ask for we will be disappointed because we believe that such crimes once they have been identified, committed should attract greater punishment we will feel disappointed” he maintained.