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Former Prosecutor Calls Sierra Leone Special Court Remarkable

Former Prosecutor Calls Sierra Leone Special Court Remarkable

Former Prosecutor Calls Sierra Leone Special Court Remarkable

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The Special Court for Sierra Leone held its final hearing Monday, upholding sentences for three rebel leaders for crimes against humanity.

The court's appeals chamber confirmed sentences of 52 years for Issa Hassan Sesay, 40 years for Morris Kallon and 25 years for Augustine Gbao. They were charged with rapes and killings during Sierra Leon's civil war.

While the special court has ended its hearings in Freetown, it is still holding a trial for former Liberian leader Charles Taylor in The Hague. Taylor faces charges of crimes against humanity relating to the Sierra Leone conflict.

David Crane, the former chief prosecutor for the special court, who signed the indictment against Taylor, says of the final hearing, "My reaction is one of quiet pride in the people of Sierra Leone to have the courage to move forward in doing this all these many years."

Crane says he's "pleased to see justice done…. Not a perfect court but a court that…is a perfect model into the future for working with the International Criminal Court in the principle of complimentarity."

Would he do any differently?

Crane says no.

"It was in the right place, which was in Freetown. It had the right mandate…. And it had the ability to go out and talk to the people of Sierra Leone…. The strategy that I put together to…bring justice largely fell into place. I think it has done a remarkable job," he says.

Precedents were set

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"One of which is that a head of state who commits international crimes while a head of state is culpable," he says.

Another precedent was making the recruiting of child soldiers an international crime.

He says, "In fact, any head of state or any cynical general or politician who unlawfully recruits children below the age of 18 into an armed force will be prosecuted."

A third precedent, he says, is that the United Nations, "working with a country or a region which has been distressed by war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide…can and does have the legal power to enter into a treaty…to prosecute those who commit international crimes."

Finally, Crane says a new crime against humanity was also established -- forced marriage in time of armed conflict. This crime focuses on the "bush wives," whose numbers grew during the civil war.

"In the indictments that I signed back in 2003, the cornerstone…(was) crimes against women," he says.

Crane is currently a professor at Syracuse University College of Law.

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