Conditional early release of prisoners convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Residual Special Court: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 November 2020:

In view of misinformation being circulated online about the treatment of prisoners convicted by the Special Court, in part by several of the prisoners themselves but also by persons living outside of Sierra Leone, the Residual Special Court, or RSCSL, finds it necessary to address a misunderstanding about one issue in particular: the Court’s conditional early release of prisoners.

Under the Residual Special Court (RSCSL) Statute, convicted persons are eligible to apply for conditional early release after they have served two thirds of their sentences, and if the President of the RSCSL determines that they have fulfilled a number of conditions, including conducting themselves properly while in prison.

Once found eligible, the Court will investigate to establish that they are not a danger to the community in which they intend to reside, or to the witnesses who testified against them. The convicted person may then be allowed to finish serving his sentence in that community, subject to strict conditions and monitoring.

We stress that the release or transfer of prisoners is a judicial decision only, made by the President of the Residual Special Court in line with the RSCSL Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

Neither the United Nations nor the Government of Sierra Leone has a role in these decisions.

It is important to remember that these prisoners were convicted by an international court, with each chamber having a majority of international judges.

The length of their sentences is based on the seriousness of the crimes for which they, as individuals, were found guilty. The prisoners are serving their sentences outside of Sierra Leone, in Rwanda and the UK, to avoid the risk of jailbreaking.

Moinina Fofana was granted conditional early release in 2015 after serving two-thirds of his sentence at Mpanga Prison in Rwanda. He completed his 15 year sentence in May 2018.

Allieu Kondewa has completed two thirds of his 20 year sentence and is currently serving out the remainder of his sentence on conditional early release.

Augustine Gbao was approved for conditional early release this September after he served two thirds of his 25 year sentence. Before being released, Augustine Gbao is undergoing a three-month training geared to his understanding of and acceptance of responsibility for the harm he inflicted by his crimes. Five other persons, including former Liberian President Charles Taylor at HM

Prison Frankland in the UK, have not yet served two thirds of their sentences and so are not yet eligible to apply for conditional early release. They are being held in accordance with international standards, with their sentences supervised by the RSCSL and prison conditions monitored by international human rights organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross.

We take these attempts at disinformation seriously because of their potential to interfere with the administration of justice. Under Rule 77 of the RSCSL Rules of Procedure and Evidence, “The Residual Special Court, in the exercise of its inherent power, may punish for contempt any person who knowingly and wilfully interferes with the administration of justice by the Special Court or Residual Special Court”.

A conviction for contempt is punishable by a sentence of up to seven years in prison, a fine of up to 20 million Leones, or both.

About the author

The Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone is responsible for the ongoing legal obligations of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which concluded its mandate in December 2013. These include supervision of prison sentences, witness protection and support, maintenance and preservation of the archives, and assistance to national prosecution authorities.


  1. Emmerson’s description of Sierra leoneans is apt. Coconut heads. Over a 100 million USD was spent to put 8 people in Jail in Rwanda. Would it not have been better to give the victims of the war that money?

    We should just forget about being a nation State and revert to tribal chiefdoms.

  2. Listen showing some form of mercy whenever it is due is the right and proper thing to do; I strongly believe in giving people second chances; Yup, Second chances and a brand new beginning not only for the rehabilitated criminals but also for the grief-stricken unfortunate victims who suffered traumatic ordeals at the hands of their own barbaric countrymen. The pages of our country’s history is smeared heavily with blood and tears while others are written with joy and laughter in ink. The RSCSL just like every other institution in our Africa is still struggling to understand and come to terms with its inherent responsibilities and obligations.

    They have weirdly chosen complacence over diligence, firmly resolved themselves to making mountains out of molehills – overreacting to a minor issue regarding disinformation instead of going all out, to hell and back to ensure that victims of an unforgotten war are adequately compensated and taken care of for the rest of their shattered lives. Is that asking to much? I challenge the RSCSL to come on this glorious forum and tell the world that they have been alert, and not been grossly indifferent to the enduring plight of amputees and countless numbers of other victims, physically and mentally scared for the rest of their lives.

    Prove to us that you have a credible plan in place to offer sustainable financial help to the families of victims and those who lost their loved ones in a totally disturbing, heart-breaking war. Again, here they are proudly talking about the rights of convicted persons and witnesses, yet not uttering a sympathetic word of support for victims left in limbo to helplessly fend for themselves in the mean streets of Freetown. In Sierra Leone, my only home, no ones cares for the poor and needy, everyone shuns distressed victims of war…the disabled are mocked and frowned upon and the elderly looked upon with contempt and disgust. A damn shame!

  3. When I hear any news about these guys, my heart cries with pain. I am one of the war victims who lost both his hands in Sierra Leone. I will be very happy if these guys died in jail. They caused pain on me and so many people in Sierra Leone. Releasing them early is like giving a knife to a crazy person to go back and cause more trouble in the community they used to live.

    Many of my amputee friends are out in the streets of Sierra Leone begging for their daily bread. Many have died from depression and broken hearts. Losing both hands is like losing everything in your life. How many people cared about the amputees? Is anybody talking about them anymore? The answer is no. The government doesn’t care about them. Only few people both in and outside Sierra Leone are thinking about them.

  4. I do not give a damn about the rebels serving jail in the great country of Rwanda. They can eat their poops to complete their prison terms there, I am absolutely fine with it. That’s how I feel about the issue of their “early release”. What these blood hounds did, in terms of the crimes they committed back home and the punishment they got for it, is not even commensurate. It is like a court that found someone guilty of stealing a million dollars but, the judge imposed a fine of one thousand dollars. The judge said, if the accused person will be able to pay half of the one thousand dollar fine and behave well, he would have the opportunity of an “early release”, to return to the aggrieved community where he had caused the havoc.

    I believe the president of the RSCSL should act with due diligence on the matter. This is not the time to consider early release for these killers, to go back home. The people whose arms, hands and legs they hacked off, haven’t even achieved a minimum level of comfort and care. While the rebels, who have not served their full jail terms, are pushing to return home. Returning home to live with the limbless, homeless, blind, deaf and sick community their barbarity created?

  5. While individual prisoners that have served two thirds of their sentences are eligible for early release with caveats attached, like remorsefulness and good behaviour, I wonder how much input the victims of this horrendous crime against humanity have in the decision making process of the international special court for Sierra Leone. Because these people have been released – in some cases in the same communities that they once brutalised during the RUF wars. Whiles the special court for Sierra Leone will follow international standards governing all the rules and procedures, on the issue of early release of prisoners, I will like to throw a wind of caution to factor how victims of the war felt about these individuals release in their midst.

    Yes these former convicted war criminals that display any of the above will receive training and supervision, so they do not break the terms of their early release. That is all well and good. I hope they’ve learnt their lessons by now. My question is, who is looking after the living victims that are still carrying the scars of the war? The amputees, the war widow’s, the former child soldiers. It also falls on the remit of the international special court for Sierra Leone, to make sure the victims and the witnesses of the trial and conviction of these war criminals are fully protected and looked after just as they are looking after the offenders.

    Because if it falls in the hands of the government of Sierra Leone to be looking after the families of war victims, it has been a massive failure on their part. The mental scars of the war is still visible in areas of the country. North, South, East and West. And the Bio government have shown little enthusiasm in helping build a national and cohesive society. May God bless Sierra Leone.

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