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UNICEF applauds the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s verdict on RUF’s child rights violations during the War

Two former commanders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) recognized guilty of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into fighting forces and using them to participate in atrocities in Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone, 26 February 2009 – The UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on Wednesday 25th February convicted three former commanders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The three former commanders, Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustin Gbao had been standing trail on an 18 count charge of war crimes and crimes against humanity since March 2003.  Sesay and Morris were found guilty of 16 of the charges including conscription and enlistment of children under the age of15 into fighting forces and using them to participate in atrocities in Sierra Leone’s decade-long brutal civil war. 

Between March 1991 and January 2002 the civil war in Sierra Leone killed thousands and over one million people were internally displaced. More than 10,000 children were conscripted into armed groups and forced to carry out gruesome atrocities.

“This is another clear demonstration, that with concerted efforts violations of human rights, especially that of children can never go unpunished,” said, reacting to the verdict, the UNICEF Representative to Sierra Leone, Geert Cappelaere.  “This is a small but significant consolation for the childhood lost by thousands of children through armed conflict. The rights and dignity of children must be respected at all times and under any circumstances” Mr Cappelaere concluded.

In June 2007, the Special Court for Sierra Leone also convicted three former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) commanders of similar war crimes and crimes against humanity.

About 90% of the over 6,000 children who were in possession of an arm during the conflict went through the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process and have been successfully reintegrated and reunified into their communities. Some of them are in school whilst a good number now earn their living from technical and vocational skills.

However, despite the success of the DDR process in Sierra Leone many children still live today in great vulnerability and as such child health, education but also protection issues remain challenges. Among others about 11% of children have lost one or both parents, practice of FGM/C is at 94% and 62% of girls are married before age 18 years.

UNICEF calls on all partners to ensure that the right of every child to life, survival, development and protection is respected.

Sierra Leone was one of the 59 countries to adopt the Paris Commitments to Stop the Unlawful Recruitment and use of Children in Armed Conflict in February 2007 and endorse the Paris Principles which is a set of programme guidelines to prevent the unlawful recruitment of children and facilitate their release and long-term social reintegration in society. The Sierra Leone Child Rights Act 2007 also strongly endorses under any circumstance.

For more information, please contact:
Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative, tel: 076 601 310,
Stephanie Vidal, Communication Specialist,  tel: 076 601 310,



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