Human Rights

The 10-year RUF rebellion saw widespread killings, rape, looting and destruction of property, largely in the countryside but also in Freetown in 1999. Renegade soldiers also took part in atrocities against civilians. At least 50,000 people died. A third of the population was displaced. Some 30,000 civilians were deliberately maimed through the amputation of limbs and other physical atrocities. Thousands of children were forcibly recruited into the RUF ranks where they too committed gross human rights abuses, often against their own families. Although the human rights has greatly improved since the end of the conflict, a few issues such as the protracted detention of remand prisoners, and the widespread practice of female genital mutilation, remain of concern.

In January 2002 The UN and Government of Sierra Leone established the Special Court for Sierra Leone to bring to justice those who bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes and atrocities. The Court opened in March 2004. A total of 13 people have been indicted, from all sides of the conflict. Foday Sankoh and Sam Bockarie have since died and the whereabouts of Johnny Paul Koroma is unknown. Of the 10 remaining individuals, 3 from the The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) military junta have been convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. Their appeals against the length of these terms were rejected in March 2008. 3 individuals from the Civilian Defense Force (CDF), a pro-government militia force, have also been convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. Their appeal also failed, in May. The trial of the remaining 3 indictees, from the rebel RUF group, ended in April 2009 with their conviction. The trial of the most high profile indictee, former Liberian President Charles Taylor, is being tried in the Hague for security reasons and is still on-going. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was also established in 2002. The Commission heard around 9,000 testimonies, and submitted its report in 2005. A Human Rights Commission ( a key recommendation of the TRC report) has now been set up.