CARL Calls for the Prosecution of former mercenary in the Sierra Leone Civil Conflict

Press Release from Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Sierra Leone: Press release
Contact:
Ibrahim Tommy, Executive Director, CARL
0023276 365 499

CARL Calls for the Prosecution of former mercenary in the Sierra Leone Civil Conflict
Freetown, June 13 2012 – The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) today urged the Sierra Leone Government to investigate and determine if probable cause exists to prosecute Ibrahim Bah, a close associate to former Liberian President Charles Taylor and a private businessman, for his role in pillaging Sierra Leone’s diamonds and other crimes. Recent newspaper reports indicate that Ibrahim Bah has been residing in Sierra Leone for a long time, but was recently arrested by the Sierra Leone Police. The government has refused to confirm or deny the reports.
“If Mr. Bah is in the custody of the Sierra Leone Police, the government must do the right thing by the people of Sierra Leone by immediately bringing him to justice for the crimes he allegedly committed against us”, CARL’s Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy said today.
There is significant evidence that Mr. Bah, in conjunction with Charles Taylor and the RUF, facilitated forced labor in the Kono and Kenema diamond fields and reaped the benefits for nearly two years after the Lome Peace Accord. For this and other associated conduct, there is reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Bah would be criminally liable under the relevant laws of Sierra Leone that relate to pillage, forced labor/slavery and possibly looting. The SCSL’s Trial Judgment in Taylor, several UN Panel of Expert Reports and other credible NGO reports speak to Mr. Bah’s critical role in the overall sustaining of the conflict.
For instance, one witness testified that Issa Sesay said he gave “diamonds to Ibrahim Bah, who said that he had business partners, and Ibrahim Bah provided satellite phones, computers, food, and $USD 50,000 for the RUF movement between 1999 and 2001.” Based on the accounts of various witnesses in the Charles Taylor trial, the Trial Chamber concluded that Ibrahim Bah was a “trusted emissary who represented the RUF at times and the Accused at times, and served as a liaison between them at times. He was a businessman who helped arrange arms and diamond transactions.”
Furthermore, prosecuting Mr. Bah in Sierra Leone is significant for another reason. The sad fact is that most of Africa’s worst crimes are usually not adjudicated by and within the country they occurred but rather in the Hague or under universal jurisdictional doctrines in other countries, especially when they involve non-resident. Prosecuting Mr. Bah, who is not from Sierra Leone, in Freetown would set an important precedent and be possibly one of the first instances in which a foreigner was finally held to account in the country which suffered the consequences of his greed. One does not need to imagine the positive effect this could have in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo where outsider resource exploitation extremely aggravates the conflict.
Now that Mr. Bah is reportedly in the custody of the police, he should be tried in Sierra Leone for stealing the diamonds of Kono during the war, which is at the same time a war crime of pillage and also a common crime of theft. The government would let down the people of Sierra Leone if they let him go by simply deporting him. CARL calls on the government to suspend any deportation plans and refer this matter to the appropriate prosecution authorities within the government.
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