Some 24 hours after the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone handed down six and eight year jail terms on the two Civil Defence Forces (CDF) commanders on war crime charges, Prosecutor Stephen Rapp yesterday told journalists at the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) office that the sentence was too short as compared to the crimes committed by the convicts.
Prosecutor Rapp explained that they believe that the sentencing was “too short given the seriousness of the crimes and their impact on victims and to deter similar crimes by all sides in future civil wars.”
“We are concerned about the imposition of sentencing of this length for unquestioned crimes of this terrible nature and about the potential impact of such a ruling on future zones where domestic forces fight rebel groups.”
Speaking on the issue of an Appeal, the Prosecutor said that anytime a party or prosecutor runs into a legal decision that one party is not happy with, that does not automatically mean there will be an Appeal.
Explaining that “an Appeal depends upon the law, it depends upon the standards for a general law one cannot succeed on an appeal unless the decision is way off base. If it’s just a little way off base it maybe impossible to change.
But we have to look at the law in particular with other courts in regards to the sentencing issues and determine whether there is a significant chance of success on an Appeal.”
The Prosecutor stressed “We are going to view all the cases around the world to determine whether we have good grounds of appeal. If we are not satisfied and we think there is a strong policy argument for an appeal, and if we think there are, we will proceed with an Appeal.”
Mr Rapp further said that based upon the grounds of an Appeal the Judges can change the sentences as it is a general rule that both the Prosecution and defence can Appeal,
“But there should be strong grounds for the Appeal Chambers to change the judgment.”
On the issue of factors raised by the judges in the sentence Prosecutor Rapp maintained that, some of which includes motivation but whether the person is motivated by democracy or by desire to bring about a better future is always going to be existing in the heart of many people who fight.
“that kind of motivation doesn’t justify killing of innocent civilian or women as the motivation to restore democracy, have been argued by all the indictees as they claim that they have motivation when they went to war.”
“We think that factor is something which is dangerous in terms of protecting the people as lots of people who have committed crimes may have a lot of good motives but that doesn’t excuse the crimes” he added.