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Sierra Leone Rebel Convicts Sent to Rwandan Jail


Sierra Leone Rebel Convicts Sent to Rwandan Jail

Sierra Leone Rebel Convicts Sent to Rwandan Jail

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Sierra Leone has transferred eight convicted former rebel leaders to Rwanda's Mpanga prison to serve out their sentences.

Eight former rebels convicted of atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, have been transferred to a Rwandan prison to serve their sentences.

On October 31, the convicts were sent to Rwanda's Mpanga prison, a facility that meets the minimum international standards for incarceration. The prisoners included both rebel and loyalist militia leaders, convicted of war crimes, including amputation, enlisting child soldiers and sexual slavery.

The acting registrar for Sierra Leone's Special Court, Binta Mansaray, says there are no prisons in Sierra Leone that meet international standards. But Rwanda is able and willing to enforce the sentences.

"They have excellent facilities as far as a prison is concerned," Mansaray said. "Whereas in Sierra Leone, while the country is moving in the right direction in terms of strengthening democratic institutions, especially the security sector, we have been advised by past governments that the country is not yet in a position to enforce sentences due to weak institutional arrangements."

Rwanda established the Mpanga prison to accommodate prisoners convicted of war crimes committed during the 1994 genocide. In March, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda signed an agreement with its fellow Special Court to hold prisoners convicted by the Sierra Leonean tribunal.

Mansaray says the need to incarcerate such highly sensitive prisoners in secure facilities is key for maintaining peace in Sierra Leone.

"Keep in mind that enforcing sentences imposed by the Special Court against prisoners who have been convicted for some of the worst atrocities any warfare has seen, you need robust security apparatus," Mansaray said.

Mansaray says Sierra Leone's 11-year conflict devastated not only life and property, but also institutions. The priority now, she says, is to consolidate peace and to ensure there is no attempt to free convicted prisoners.

She says Sierra Leone needs to move development and peace processes forward.

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