The U.N. war crimes court for Sierra Leone has handed down its first indictments. The first seven people to be formally charged under the special court include the country's interior minister and a veteran rebel leader.
The prosecutor for the U.N. court said seven men have been indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law during Sierra Leone's brutal civil war.
The specific crimes they are charged with include murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscription of children into an armed force and attacks on U.N. peacekeepers.
Those charged include current Interior Minister Sam Hinga Norman and jailed rebel leader Foday Sankoh, who headed the notorious Revolutionary United Front, or RUF.
Also on the indictments list are three other RUF commanders and Johnny Paul Koroma, who headed the military junta that took power in a 1997 coup.
The prosecutor said five of the men being charged are already in police custody, including the interior minister who was arrested Monday before the indictments were announced. The only two still on the loose are Johnny Paul Koroma and notorious RUF commander Sam Mosquito Bockarie, both of whom are in hiding.
The prosecutor called on the people of Sierra Leone and West Africa to turn the two men over to authorities.
The U.N. special court for war crimes in Sierra Leone was formally approved a little over a year ago after several years of delay because of lack of financing from the international community.
The government of Sierra Leone will also be setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modeled on South Africa's, designed to help heal the emotional and psychological wounds left by the 10-year civil war.