- The leaders of the former pro-government Civil Defence Forces (CDF) in Sierra Leone, Alieu Kondewa and Moinina Fofana, have been convicted on charges of war crimes during the country’s 10-year civil war (1991-2001).
However, the militia leaders were acquitted of crimes against humanity, murder and sexual violence.
The conviction is the second of its kind since the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone began prosecuting those indicted of committing humanity rights violations during the period.
Last month, the court imposed heavy jail terms on former rebel leaders - Alex Tamba Brima, Santigie Borbor Kanu and Brima Kamara after they were guilty of similar crimes.
Kondewa and Fofana have been tried on eight counts of crimes against humanity, war crimes, recruiting child solders, among others. But they pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
They will be sentenced at a later date.
CDF, a group of Kamajor traditional hunter fighters that fought on the side of the government, was led by Sam Hinga Norman, a former Interior Minister of President Kabbah’s regime. Hinga Norman was also put on trial on war crimes charges, but he died of heart failure in February while in detention.
Most Sierra Leoneans do not understand why the CDF leaders should be tried for defending civilians against the brutal rebels and. This was manifested when there was an indictment against Mr Norman. Kamajors also helped to restore the toppled government to power.
But the judges have been disturbed by harrowing accounts that the militia had destroyed an entire village, killed villagers as well as skinned a living man in the presence of others.
Stephen Rapp, the Special Prosecutor of the court, admitted the controversial nature of the indictments. He however described the trial as very challenging.
A total of 13 people have been indicted for being responsible for war crimes in Sierra Leone. They included the former Liberian President Charles Taylor whose case has been moved to The Hague. An indicted former rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, died in detention while Johnny Paul Koroma, a former coup leader, disappeared.
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