Appeals Chamber Upholds Convictions of AFRC Leaders

Today the Special Court’s Appeals Chamber in Freetown upheld the convictions of three former members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).  Alex Tamba Brima (a.k.a. “Gullit”), Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santigie Borbor Kanu (a.k.a. “55”) were convicted of 11 of 14 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international law in June 2007.  Trial Chamber II (Judges Sebutinde, Doherty and Lussick — the judges currently hearing the Taylor case) presided over that case.  Brima and Kanu each received sentences of 50 years, while Kamara received a 45 year sentence. 

Of potential significance to the Taylor trial, the Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber’s decision that the Prosecution had not properly pled the issue of Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE).  Essentially, JCE is a theory not explicitly referenced in the Special Court Statute under which an individual can be held responsible for all crimes committed pursuant to the existence of a common plan or design that involves the commission of a crime if the defendant participates with others in the common design. (see past commentary by Professor Schabas on the Trial Chamber’s June 2007 decision, and a 2005 law review article regarding the development of JCE liability.)

A press release concerning the Appeals Chamber’s ruling can be found [pdf] here, while comments by chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp on the decision can be found [pdf] here.