Dressed smartly in their European suits with Brima Bazzy Kamara sporting a light pink shirt with matching flowery coloured tie, the three convicted former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) military junta tried bravely to suppress any outward emotions as Ugandan born Justice Julia Sebutinde read out their sentences.“Brima, Kamara and Kanu have been found responsible for some of the most heinous, brutal and atrocious crimes ever recorded in human history” she said and went on to paint a truly unpleasant picture of their acts.
“Innocent civilians, babies, children, men and women of all ages, were murdered by being shot, hacked to death, burnt alive, beaten to death.Women and young girls were gang raped to death some had their genitals mutilated by the insertion of foreign objects”
She went on “Sons were forced to rape mothers, brothers were forced to rape sisters, pregnant women were killed by having their stomachs split open and the foetus removed merely to settle a bet amongst the troops as to the gender of the foetus”
Justice Sebutinde pointed out how “Men were disemboweled and their intestines stretched across a road to form a barrier” and how “Human heads were placed on sticks on either side of the road to mark such barriers.”
“Hacking off the limbs of innocent civilians was common place” she said, adding that “Victims were babies, young children and men and women of all ages some had one arm amputated others lost both arms”
“For those victims who survived the amputation” she said “life was instantly and forever changed into one of dependence.” Most she said “were turned into beggars unable to earn any other living and even today cannot perform even the simplest of tasks without the help of others.”
“Children were forcibly taken away from their families, often fed on drugs and used as child soldiers who were trained to kill and to commit other brutal crimes against the civilian population” she further highlighted.
“The child soldiers who survived the war were robbed of their childhood and most of them lost a chance of an education”
Not surprisingly she said “the trial chamber cannot recall any other conflict in the history of warfare in which innocent civilians were subjected to such savage and inhuman treatment.”
Alex Tamba Brima (35) was sentenced to 50 years, Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara (39) got 45 years while Santigie Borbor Kanu (42) got 50 years.
The three were all sentenced to “a single term of imprisonment” for all the counts on which they were convicted.
Justice Sebutinde gave one saying “credit shall be given to him for any period during which he was detained in custody pending this trial” meaning that the four years they have spent in detention will be deducted from the total jail term.“The accused will begin to serve their sentences immediately” she ordered although a lengthy appeal is likely to follow.
As the Judges left the court the three waved bravely to their relatives, before they were whisked off by security personal to their jails.
Outside the court room Alex Tamba Brima’s Father in law said “I don’t feel fine”.
“All I have to do now is to go home and sit with the family and three children to decide what to do.”
“Now they said we should reconcile, make everything minimal, they said we should sit down and be peaceful citizens, but that sentence is not minimal if it was 15 or 10 years yes but they said everything minimal, the judges were not minimal” he lamented.
Other family members were seen in tears.
A student who refused to reveal his name argued “This is not enough for Sierra Leoneans there were thousands of AFRC but only these three were convicted this is not enough for Sierra Leoneans.”
16 year-old student Sulaiman Musa who also witnessed the proceedings in court said “I felt good because the problem that we faced during the war … it’s like they are paying for the things they did during the war so a child like me I was expecting more than that because I really felt for those who have passed away, more especially my colleagues children who suffered, who were used as soldiers so I was really glad for the sentence.”
All three had been convicted on eleven counts with the charges of sexual slavery struck off by the Judges. They are however the first in the world to be convicted and jailed for the crime of “use of child soldiers” which falls under “other serious violations of international humanitarian law.”