Former Sierra Leonean rebel leader indicted war criminal Foday Sankoh dies

Former rebel leader Foday Sankoh, indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes committed during 10 years of brutal conflict, atrocities and human rights violations in the West African country, died last night, the court registrar announced today. Mr. Sankoh, leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), whose indictment in March was welcomed by the court prosecutor as an end to “the dark days of the rule of the gun,” died in Choithram Hospital in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital, where he had been receiving medical treatment and was under 24 hour observation. He was 66. He had been experiencing major health problems after a stroke in August last year. He was taken into the custody on 10 March this year and subsequently transferred from the detention facility to the hospital on 29 March. At the time, Chief Prosecutor David M. Crane said his indictment and that of six others heralded “a new dawn” for Sierra Leone and all of West Africa, and he read out a wide-ranging list of charges that included murder, sexual slavery and rape, forced conscription of children and attacks on UN peacekeepers. The Court President, Justice Geoffrey Robertson, has ordered the registrar to conduct an inquiry and present a report to the Court on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Sankoh’s death. A post mortem will be held to establish the precise cause of death and a further announcement made in due course. At UN Headquarters in New York, when asked about Mr. Sankoh’s death, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: “One should not speak ill of the dead. May Foday Sankoh’s soul rest in peace. This is a man who terrorized his people and almost destroyed Sierra Leone. In the end, he died an indicted war criminal, a lonely and a broken man.”

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