Sam Bockarie was born on 10 February 1964 in Koidu in the Kono district of Sierra Leone. He joined the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in 1991 in Liberia and between 1992 and April 1997 held the position of Battle Group Commander, with only the Battle Field Commander and the leader of the RUF, Foday Sankoh, as his hierarchical superiors.
Foday Sankoh was either in prison or under house arrest in Nigeria and in Sierra Leone from the month of March 1997 until the month of April 1999. During this period, under orders from Foday Sankoh, Sam Bockarie was alleged to have directed all military operations in Sierra Leone. With the authority delegated to him by Foday Sankoh, Sam Bockarie was reported to have worked directly and in close collaboration with Charles Taylor. This being the case, he also received recommendations and instructions from Charles Taylor.
In April 1997, Foday Sankoh appointed Sam Bockarie to the position of Battle Field Commander, a post he held until the month of December 1999. In this position, he was formally subordinate only to Foday Sankoh, the imprisoned leader of the RUF, as well as to the leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), the group of soldiers of the Sierra Leone army which overthrew the democratically elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah on 25 May 1997.
Shortly after the time that Johnny Paul Koroma, the leader and President of the AFRC, had invited the RUF guerrilla movement to share power, Foday Sankoh issued orders to Sam Bockarie as well as to all members of the RUF to collaborate with the leaders of the AFRC within a new AFRC/RUF alliance.
During the rule of the AFRC/RUF, commonly known as the period of the “Junta”, Sam Bockarie was one of the leading members of the Junta. When the Junta was swept from power in mid-February 1998, Sam Bockarie continued to function as one of the principal leaders of the AFRC/RUF coalition until December 1999. During this period, Johnny Paul Koroma appointed Sam Bockarie to the position of Chief of Defence Staff.
In the various positions which he held subsequently, Sam Bockarie, together with other leaders of the AFRC/RUF coalition, exercised authority, command and control over all of his subordinates, these being soldiers of the AFRC/RUF coalition.
Between May 1997 and April 1999, according to the indictment, troops of the AFRC/RUF alliance carried out attacks against the civilian population which were characterised by summary executions, mutilations, looting and burning of villages, sexual violence, forced marriages, abductions and forced labour notably in the diamond mines and by the enrolment and use of child soldiers as well as by the bloody attack against the capital, Freetown, in January 1999.
The objective of these crimes was to punish the civilian population for its alleged support of the regime of President Kabbah. The same troops were also said to have committed atrocities in the Port-Loko district from February to April 1999. Throughout this time period, according to the indictment, Sam Bockarie continued to hold a leadership position within the AFRC/RUF alliance.
Finally, the AFRC/RUF troops were accused of attacking the United Nations peacekeeping forces (UNAMSIL) between the months of April and September 2000.