The Special Court for Sierra Leone does not intend to prosecute children but rather people who forced children to commit crimes during the country's war, Prosecutor David Crane said on Friday.
Crane told Sierra Leonean students at Kabala town, near the Guinean border that he was mandated to prosecute individuals aged at least 15 years who bore the greatest responsibility for war crimes committed during Sierra Leone's war, according to a news release from the court's press office.
"The children of Sierra Leone have suffered enough both as victims and perpetrators. I am not interested in prosecuting children. I want to prosecute the people who forced thousands of children to commit unspeakable crimes," Crane said.
Many of the students at the school had been child soldiers, the Court said. Crane, it added, told them that he planned to establish crimes against children as war crimes.
Child abduction and forced recruitment are crimes in the Court’s statute that have never been prosecuted before by an international tribunal.
Crane also met with civil society leaders, local chiefs, former combatants and residents of Kabala. He told them he had travelled outside the capital, Freetown, to "meet and hear from his clients: the people of Sierra Leone".
The UN Security Council in March authorised the establishment of the court to try individuals accused of serious violations of human rights during Sierra Leone's war, which began in 1991 and officially ended in January 2002. Such abuses included deliberate amputation of limbs, rape and killings. They were committed mainly by Revolutionary United Front rebels.
In October, the court started building its premises and detention facility in Freetown. A permanent building to house the trial and appeals chambers would be completed by May 2003 at an estimated cost of US $3.2 million, the court said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions