The civil war in Sierra Leone began on March 23rd 1991. It began when the Revolutionary United Front, an insurgency group intervened in Sierra Leonne in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momah government. The now former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor and his own troops, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, aided the RUF. Taylor supplied weapons and training to the RUF in exchange for rough Diamonds, also known as Blood Diamonds, the inspiration for the Movie. These diamonds were mined and collected through forced labor. The now armed and trained RUF did more than just intervene, they on many occasions used child soldiers to fight for them in special groups known as Small Boys Units. The RUF would either conscript the children to fight or simply kidnap them and force them into combat. An estimated ten thousand children took part in the conflict with 80% between the age of 7 and 14, and another 30% of the children young girls. Alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs were used on the kids during training to prepare them. Following the war, after help from the British and the United Nations to stop the violence, Sierra Leone’s President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah wrote to the UN for help in trying those responsible for crimes during the war. The UN helped set up the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The SCSL unanimously ruled that Taylor was guilty for all 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. Three members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council were also tried and found guilty for the recruitment of children for use in combat. A final outcome of the war was the launching of the Kimberley Process, which in 2003 set requirements for distribution and production of rough diamonds.

 Key Legal Issues

  • Use of child soldiers → recruitment of children under the age of 15 is a war crime under customary law, ffirmed by Special Court for Sierra Leone, and using children under the age of 18 for combat outlined in the conventional rights of the child
  • the illegal use of blood diamonds to fund the RUF illegal after, outlined in the Kimberley Process which gives strict guid lines for rough diamond production and distribution
  • War crimes and Crimes against humanity commited by Charles Taylor


The Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Taylor on March 3rd 2003 on 17 counts of war crimes during conflict in Sierra Leone. In 2006. A judge for the SCSL amended the indictment to 11 counts. The United Nations Security Council allowed Taylor to be sent to Leidschendam for trial. Taylor boycotted and was not present for the opening of his trial on June 4th 2007. The prosecution finished presenting evidence in January 2009. After the defense’s motion for acquittal was dismissed, the defense presented their argument. From July to November 2009, Taylor testified his own defense. After the defense appealed the conviction and sentencing, the appeal court dismissed it and upheld the sentence. He was charged with 11 counts or war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was the first African head of state to be convicted of war crimes.

  1. Acts of terrorism
  2. Murder
  3. Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder
  4. Rape
  5. Sexual slavery and any other form of sexual violence
  6. Outrages upon personal dignity
  7. Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment
  8. Other inhumane acts
  9. Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed  forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities
  10. Enslavement
  11. Pillage