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The Prosecutor v. Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu

Court Special Court for Sierra Leone (Trial Chamber II), Sierra Leone
Case number SCSL-04-16-T
Decision title Sentencing Judgment
Decision date 19 July 2007
  • The Prosecutor
  • Alex Tamba Brima
  • Brima Bazzy Kamara
  • Santigie Borbor Kanu
Other names
  • AFRC Case
Categories Crimes against humanity, War crimes
Keywords children, common Article 3, enslavement, outrages upon personal dignity, rape, Sexual slavery, violence to life, violence to person, war crimes
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The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) represented the rebel opposition group to the government of President Kabbah who was overthrown following a coup by the AFRC and Revolutionary United Front, the RUF, which formed a military junta to rule the people of Sierra Leone.

Brima, Kamara and Kanu were members of the AFRC, convicted by Trial Chamber II for commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Their crimes were characterised by a particular brutality: children were abducted from their homes, drugged and recruited as child soldiers; young women were raped and sexually assaulted; civilians had limbs amputated; others still were beaten and beheaded. The Trial Chamber imposed a sentence of 50 years each on Brima and Kanu, and 45 years for Kamara. In reaching this determination, the Chamber took into account the large number of victims, their particular vulnerability, the brutality of the crimes, the positions of authority occupied by the Accused. It found there to be no mitigating circumstances in favour of any of the Accused. 

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Procedural history

Brima and Kamara were indicted on 7 March 2003; Kanu on 16 September 2003. The Trial Chamber ordered a joint trial of the three Accused on 28 February 2004. 

The trial commenced 7 March 2005. Trial Chamber II delivered its verdict on 20 June 2007 convicting all three of the Accused for six counts of violations of common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions, four counts of crimes against humanity and one count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law. 

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Related developments

The Prosecutor, Brima, Kamara and Kanu filed Notices of Appeal on 13 September 2007.

All three of the Accused appealed the sentencing on the grounds that the Trial Chamber erred in law and in fact by, inter alia, failing to consider a number of mitigating factors in sentencing, that the terms of imprisonment are disproportionate and excessive, and that the Trial Chamber double-counted aggravating factors. Kamara and Kanu raised further grounds of appeal against sentencing.

On 22 February 2008, the Appeals Chamber dismissed the appeal and upheld the sentences imposed by Trial Chamber II.

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Legally relevant facts

Innocent civilians including babies, young children, pregnant women, and men were made the objects of large scale and brutal attacks including murder, amputation, rape, abduction and enslavement (para. 34). 

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Core legal questions

  • Are the sentencing practices of Sierra Leonean courts and those of the ICTY and ICTR applicable in the present instance?
  • Is the context of guerrilla warfare a factor to be considered by the Trial Chamber when assessing the extent and gravity of the offenses?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Article 19 of the Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
  • Rule 101 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

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Court's holding and analysis

The Chamber does not find it appropriate to consider the sentencing practices of Sierra Leonean courts in the present instance as the Accused were not indicted nor convicted of crimes under Sierra Leonean law. It does, however, give due consideration to the sentencing practice of the ICTY and ICTR due to the similarities between their and the Special Court’s statutory provisions.

The aggravating factors considered by the Chamber include: zealous participation in the crimes, prolonged period of time, vulnerability of the victims, targeting of places of worship or sanctuary, the use of coercion.

In the exercise of the Chamber’s discretion to consider mitigating factors other than that provided for in Rule 101(B), the Chamber considered good behaviour, remorse, cooperation with the Prosecution, duress and ill-health. The Chamber did not find there to be any mitigating factors in respect of any of the Accused.

The position of Brima and Kanu as professional soldiers in the Sierra Leone Army prior to their involvement in the AFRC does not merit mitigation; particularly since their actions ran counter to their duty to protect the people of Sierra Leone.

Brima and Kanu were sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment; Kamara to 45 years’ imprisonment.

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

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