News Just In: RUF Appeals Judgment Handed Down in Freetown Today, Upholds Sentences

The Special Court for Sierra Leone wrapped up its Freetown-based trials today when the Appeals Chamber handed down its  judgment on the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) case.  It upheld the Trial Chamber’s February 2009 convictions and final sentences of the three defendants in that case: former RUF interim leader, Issa Sesay; senior RUF commander Morris Kallon; and former RUF security chief Augustine Gbao.

Each of the men had originally faced 18 counts against them for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.  Among other things, the charges had included terrorism, sexual slavery, murder, rape, the conscription, enlistment and use of child soldiers, and attacks on peacekeepers.  The Trial Chamber had originally convicted Mr. Sesay and Mr. Kallon on 16 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and Mr. Gbao on 14 counts.  The Appeals Chamber upheld the 16 counts for both Mr. Sesay and Mr. Kallon today.  The Chamber also confirmed the conviction for 13 counts for Mr. Gbao (it overturned the Trial Chamber’s conviction for the 14th count of collective punishments, and also found him not guilty of one of two attacks on UN peacekeepers, for which he had also been convicted by the Trial Chamber).  To see the Special Court’s summary of the original charges against each defendant, go to:

The Appeals Chamber also upheld the total length of sentences handed down to each man in the sentencing hearing held in Freetown in April 2009, although the sentences for some counts were revised.  This means that Mr. Sesay’s sentence of 52 years imprisonment, Mr. Kallon’s 40 year sentence and Mr. Gbao’s 25 year sentence were all upheld.

In addition to the majority opinion read out by Justice Renate Winter today in Freetown, four separate opinions were also read out.  One of them was a dissent by Justice George Gelaga King, which was joined by Justice Jon Kamanda.

The press release issued by the Special Court’s Registry highlighted that this Appeals judgement “upholds first-ever convictions by an international tribunal for forced marriage as a crime against humanity, and for attacks against United Nations peacekeepers.”  The Chamber also upheld convictions for the recruitment and use of child soldiers (which are also crimes being prosecuted currently in the International Criminal Court’s first case against Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga).  You can read the Registry press release giving an overview of the RUF Appeals Judgment here: (or simply by going to the home page of the Special Court at which currently has a link to the press release as the top item on the front page).

Meanwhile, the Office of the Prosecutor also issued a press release. Acting Prosecutor Joseph Kamara was quoted as saying:

“Today’s Appeals judgement is a final condemnation of one of the most brutal and notorious rebel groups in modern times,” said Mr. Kamara. “The suffering inflicted by the RUF on the people of this country is beyond words.”

“With the end of this trial, there is now a final recognition of their crimes. And there is a strong measure of justice and accountability for their victims – the families of those who were slaughtered, the women who were raped, the children forced to fight and kill, the many thousands who were mutilated and terrorized.”

You can the Office of the Prosecutor press release here (or else go straight to the Special Court’s home page, as above, as a link to the release exists there as well). 

No RUF defense counsel press release was issued. However, the defense counsel for the RUF did object to the sentences when they were originally handed down in April this year.  See this story in to give you a sense of the Defense perspective at that stage:

Meanwhile, for initial press reactions to today’s judgment, see:

The BBC:

Radio France Internationale:

And here’s a Voice of America story which features an interview with former chief Prosecutor at the SCSL, David Crane:

The RUF features heavily in the trial of Charles Taylor, as Mr. Taylor is alleged to have controlled and supported the RUF in their commission of crimes in Sierra Leone after November 30, 1996.  Mr. Taylor’s trial is still ongoing in The Hague and resumes from recess today. 

As a reminder: Today’s Appeals Chamber decision is not proof of Mr. Taylor’s involvement in the commission of RUF crimes: that is still to be litigated during Mr. Taylor’s trial in The Hague.   What today’s Appeals Judgment does is simply to confirm that Mr. Sesay, Mr. Gbao and Mr. Kallon have been found guilty of horrific crimes that occurred in Sierra Leone during its brutal war. 

As is the right of all defendents in international criminal trials, Mr. Taylor maintains the right to be presumed innocent unless the Special Court judges find sufficient evidence to support a conviction for his alleged role in RUF crimes in Sierra Leone.  The defense case is still ongoing and no judgment has yet been rendered in Mr. Taylor’s case.

We will post an update on the first day back in the courtroom of Mr. Taylor’s trial in The Hague in a few hours.


  1. Good news for victims of RUF war, great day for justice and peace for Sierra Leone. When will the hands of the clock of justice turn to Liberia so that all war markers and sponsor will have their day in Court? Liberians, do we have the political will or are we just going to sit there because the Americans have said we should decide on the TRC reports? Bravo to the people of Sierra Leone and peace to all.


    Harris K Johnson

    1. I definitly agree with you that Liberia be next for war makers to be brought to justice like what just happened in Sierra Leone, including charles taylor, after his acquital from the Hague as most of you believe he is innocent. This is the rational thinking I have always proposed on this site. We need to face reality and not being short sighted or insensitive to the sufferings of others simply because they are not like us!

      1. Fallah, what is going on with you? The first two posts that I have read from you this morning seem to have a dramatic shift of tone. You are toning down the rhetoric here a little bit. What is happening buddy? You are sounding more like a cautious man in commenting on the issue of seeking justice for the victims of both countries. I don’t know what to consider but, I will wait and see follwup comments from you.

  2. Fallah,
    I do agree with you partly! You have really put on your thinking cap which is great. Mr. Taylor should be acquited and be put on trial for what he did in Liberia. That way, he will be the rope to pull and he will pull the bushes because it will one fall all fall!

    I think that’s best way forward but anything than that will be a total disgrace to the international community as this trial continue! Mr. Taylor didn’t say that he never supported the RUF…… I did say it and give a time line for his supports to the RUF, why and when that relationship came to an end. He said it plain and simple, what more do you want to hear?

  3. Fallah,

    I don’t think that I need a boost from you. I have always been an independent thinker, and lover of true justice for all.

    Harris K Johnson

  4. Mr. David Crane, you have just told the world that your reaction is one of a quiet pride in the people of Sierra Leone to have the courage to move forward in doing this all these years. You also said, this court is not a perfect court. However, you did not stop there. You went on to say, it was in the right place that the Sierra Leonean defendants were tried in Sierra Leone.
    Mr. Crane, I have some questions for you, if at all you have the time to read comments posted on this website. 1: why your pride in the people of Sierra Leone is a quiet one if you actually believe, it was the people of Sierra Leone that made this thing happened and not the US and Great Britain as millions of people believe around the world? 2: what precipitated or at least, motivated you to have told the world for the first time, that the court is not a perfect court? 3: why you think this court is not a “perfect court”? 4: Will you allow yourself, if you have the means to resist an imperfect court to have jurisdiction over you if you are of a different “nationality” like President Taylor, who has never been seen or captured on the battlefield as enemy combatant in Sierra Leone? 5: we all know, you were the imperfect court original Chief Prosecutor, who drafted and orchestrated this inherently flawed court, what did you do to correct this imperfection of the court at the time you got to know it was imperfect? 6: when did you know the court was imperfect?
    Mr. Crane, I see cultural biases here with respect to big and small countries. I also see an irreversible downward spiral for African leaders based on this evolution of an unpopular culture introduced by “big countries.” That will not elevate the status of this court to that of the ICC. But rather, the court will be described as UN Backed Court or Special Court. Finally Mr. Crane, there are lots of ways to give more meaning to your life than to inimitably subject President Taylor to this “imperfect court”. Please correct your mistake before President Taylor falls prey to yourself described imperfect court.

  5. Fallah don’t bring that trick here. This is what we been talking and you was the person going the other way. We said if Taylor was or is being in this court for crime committed in Liberia that is fair.I also could have been a witness, but the crimes committed in Sierra Leone No No Brother. So thank for getting to know the true now.

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