Alex Tamba Brima

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 07.06.2016 )
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facts

Alex Tamba Brima was born on 23 November 1971 in the village of Yaryah in the district of Kono in Sierra Leone. In April 1985, he joined the Sierra Leone Army, where he was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant.


Alex Tamba Brima was alleged to have been a member of a group of 17 soldiers which took power by force on 25 May 1997 in Freetown and overthrew the democratically elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. These soldiers identified themselves as being members of the AFRC (Armed Forces Revolutionary Council), their leader being Johnny Paul Koroma (see “related cases”).

Shortly after this Coup d’état, the rebel movement RUF (Revolutionary United Front) which had been waging war against the government since 1991, was invited by Johnny Paul Koroma to abandon its rebel movement and share power. This proposition was accepted by Foday Sankoh, the leader of the rebels who, at the time, was under house arrest in Nigeria.

Alex Tamba Brima allegedly participated in the government thus set up and was nominated by Johnny Paul Koroma to the post of Public Liaison Officer as well as to being a member of the AFRC Supreme Council, both of which posts he held until the arrival of the West African Intervention Force (ECOMOG) which, in 1998, reinstated the democratically elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. The AFRC/RUF forces at this point retreated to the centre of the country.

At the time the ATRC/RUF coalition was in power, its armed forces were accused of attacking the civilian population, and of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in June 1997 in the district of Bo and, between May 1997 and February 1998, in the district of Kenema. The aim of these attacks was to wreak terror on the civilian population and to punish it for the purported passive support given to the regime of President Kabbah.

Between the month of February 1998 and 30 April 1998, Alex Tamba Brima was Commander of the AFRC/RUF forces in the district of Kono in the east of Sierra Leone. In addition he was suspected of having been one of the Commanders of the AFRC/RUF forces which conducted armed operations throughout the north, the east and the centre of the country. These operations, amongst other outcomes, led to attacks against the civilian population in the departments of Kailahun, Kono, Koinagugu and Bombali between mid-February 1998 and 31 December 1998. Once again, the aim of these attacks was to wreak terror on the civilian population and to punish it for the purported passive support given to the regime of President Kabbah.

On 6 January 1999, Freetown was once again overrun and occupied for three weeks by the AFRC/RUF forces. Alex Tamba Brima was alleged to have been the Commander in Chief who led the attack against Freetown and who directed ground operations. These operations were marked by the great number of atrocities committed against the civilian population of Freetown as well as against the civilian population living in the region surrounding the capital. The aim of these attacks was to punish the population of Freetown and its surroundings for their supposed passive support given to the regime of President Kabbah. The same troops were also alleged to have committed atrocities in the district of Port-Loko from February to April 1999. During all of this time, Alex Tamba Brima was always considered to have held a leadership position within the AFRC/RUF alliance.

All of these attacks against the civilian populations between May 1997 and April 1999 were notable for their summary executions, mutilations, looting and burning of villages, violations of sexual integrity, forced marriages, abductions and forced labour- particularly in the diamond mines- and by the enlistment and use of child soldiers.

Finally, the AFRC/RUF troops were accused of attacking the United Nations peacekeeping forces between the months of April and September 2000.

Alex Tamba Brima was arrested and transferred to the SCSL (Special Court for Sierra Leone) on 10 March 2003.

legal procedure

Alex Tamba Brima was arrested and transferred to the SCSL (Special Court for Sierra Leone) on 10 March 2003. He had been indicted on 7 March 2003.The indictment listed crimes against humanity, violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II (commonly known as war crimes) and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, in conformity with Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).

At his initial court appearances on 15 and 17 March 2003, he pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

The indictment set out that during the relevant period, starting on 30 November 1996, a state of armed conflict existed in Sierra Leone and that a link existed between the armed conflict in question and the acts and omissions considered to constitute violations of Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Statute of the SCSL.

As stated in the indictment, Alex Tamba Brima, together with all the other members of the corps of organised armed forces involved in hostilities in Sierra Leone, had an obligation to conform to the rules of international humanitarian law as well as to the rules and customs governing the conduct of hostilities.

The AFRC/RUF coalition and Alex Tamba Brima, in his capacity as a leader of the AFRC, were alleged to have worked together on the same plan and goal thereby constituting a common criminal conspiracy which led concretely to concerted operations undertaken with a view to take over power in Sierra Leone and to control the diamond rich regions, particularly in the districts of Kenema and Kono. The atrocities committed against the civilian populations (murder, amputations, abductions, forced labour, burning down of villages, use of child soldiers, multiple violations of sexual integrity, forced marriages) were apparently an integral part of the plan drawn up by the AFRC/RUF coalition or at the very least could be considered as an inevitable consequence of such a plan which included the terrorizing and collective punishment of the civilian population as a method of taking control over the territory of Sierra Leone.

The indictment included 18 counts: acts of terrorism and collective punishments against the civilian population (counts 1 and 2), acts of extermination, murder, and other life threatening offences (counts 3 to 5), sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage (counts 6 to 9), violence to physical and mental well being, including amputation (counts 10 and 11), enlistment and use of child soldiers under 15 years of age (count 12), pillage (count 13), abduction and taking of hostages (count 14), and attacks against the personnel of UNAMSIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone (counts 15 to 18).

According to the charges, individual members of the AFRC/RUF coalition indicted by the SCSL acted in concert with Charles Taylor during the period covered by the indictment.

Alex Tamba Brima was held to be criminally responsible for the above mentioned crimes, whether it was for his personal contribution to their planning, instigating, and organizing in which he would have participated in one way or another, or alternatively where they were alleged to have been committed as part of a common criminal conspiracy in which he participated.

The indictment held him to have equal or additional responsibility in his role as hierarchical superior, for crimes committed by his subordinates, for which he had, or should have had, knowledge and also because he did not take the necessary measures aimed at the prevention or punishment of such crimes.

On 27 January 2004, the SCSL ordered the joint trial of Alex Tamba Brima, Santigie Borbor Kanu and Brima Bazzy Kamara (see “related cases”).

The trial before the SCSL started on 7 March 2005. The defence testimony was concluded on 27 October 2006. The closing arguments took place on 7 December 2006.

On 20 June 2007, Alex Tamba Brima and his co-defendants were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the SCSL.

On 19 July 2007, Tamba Brima and Santigie Borbor Kanu were sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. Brima Bazzy Kamara was sentenced to 45 years. The three were set to serve their prison sentences in Sweden or Austria rather than Sierra Leone because of security concerns.

The verdicts were the first delivered by the SCSL. This constitutes the first time in the history of international criminal justice that former rebel leaders were found guilty and sentenced to heavy prison terms for the recruitment of child soldiers.

On 22 February 2008, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the sentences handed down by the Trial Chamber. It found that acts of forced marriage amount to a separate crime under international law. This was the first such finding by any international court. It declined however, to enter new convictions. The Appeals Chamber also reversed a Trial Chamber decision that the prosecution had not properly pleaded the issue of joint criminal enterprise. The Appeals Chamber found that the issue of the joint criminal enterprise had been properly addressed in the indictment, but it did not enter additional convictions.

spotlight

This trial marked the first time that an international tribunal had ruled on the charge of recruitment of child soldiers into an armed force, and on the crime of forced marriage in an armed conflict.

context

SUMMARY OF THE FACTS

For about eleven years, between the 1991 and the 2002, Sierra Leone was torn apart by a civil war. The government forces – at different stages supported by Nigeria-led ECOMOG forces, Guinea and the United Kingdom – tried to resist continuous attempts of ‘coup d’état’ by some rebel groups, notably the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), supported by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). A high number of crimes were perpetrated in those years, including murders, mutilations, rapes, abductions and conscription of child soldiers.

Because of such devastation, on 2 June 2000, Sierra Leone’s President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah wrote a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Kabbah asked the UN for cooperation in bringing to justice those responsible for the crimes perpetrated during the conflict.

A few months later, on 14 August 2000, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1315, mandating the Secretary-General to negotiate the creation of a special tribunal with the Sierra Leonean government. As a result, on 16 January 2002, the UN and Government of Sierra Leone signed the agreement creating the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).

THE SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE (SCSL)

The SCSL is a criminal tribunal sitting in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Its Appeals Chamber sit however in Leidschendam, near The Hague, in the Netherlands. Like in other “hybrid courts”, the judiciary is composed by both international and national judges. The same holds true for the staff of the other SCSL’s bodies.

The aim of the SCSL is ‘to prosecute persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996, including those leaders who, in committing such crimes, have threatened the establishment of and implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone’ (SCSL Statute, art. 1).

The Court therefore applies both international and domestic law, by prosecuting on the one hand crimes against humanity, violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions (1949) and of Additional Protocol II (1977), and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, and on the other hand Sierra Leonean crimes like arson and rape of girls.

Fact Sheet
Name: Alex Tamba Brima
Nationality: Sierra Leone
Context: Sierra Leone
Charges: War crimes, Crimes against humanity, Deprivation of life, Infringment of physical integrity, Protection of civilian objects, Protection of civilians, Protection of humanitarian personnel and objects
Status: sentenced
Judgement Place: Sierra Leone Special Court
Particulars: Trial before the SCSL started on 7 March 2005; found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 50 years imprisonment on 19 July 2007; sentence confirmed on appeal on 22 February 2008