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On June 20, the special war crimes court for Sierra Leone handed down its first three convictions of members of a rebel group, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council. In her sentencing statement, the judge noted that the three convicted were “responsible for some of the most heinous, brutal, and atrocious crimes ever recorded in human history.” The convictions were also the first ever by a UN-backed tribunal for the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Human Rights Watch’s documentation of atrocities including killings, amputations, sexual violence, abductions, and the use of child soldiers provided background and, in many cases, direct leads for the court’s investigators. We made a strong case for creating the special court in 2002, provided recommendations to strengthen its operations, and urged international donors to provide it with sufficient funding.

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