Special Court announces hearings

Four people indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for crimes against humanity are to appear in court for their initial hearings on Saturday 15 March, the court reported in a press statement on Thursday.

Foday Saybana Sankoh, former head of Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary Front (RUF) will appear for the initial hearing at 10.00 GMT, Issa Hassan Sesay, also a former RUF leader, will appear at 12.30 GMT while the times set for two other accused, Alex Tamba Brima and Morris Kallon, are 14.00 GMT and 15.30 GMT respectively.

The court made its first indictments on Monday. "This is a very important step in bringing those who committed atrocities with impunity in Sierra Leone in the last decade to justice," Chief Press and Public Affairs Officer David Hecht told IRIN. "It is a new model for international justice and a major step for people who suffered the atrocities to see that justice will be done."

The four and Sam Hinga Norman, the current minister of internal affairs, were arrested and placed in the custody of the Court. Two other suspects, Johnny Paul Koroma - who headed the military junta that ruled Sierra Leone from May 1997 to February 1998 - and ex-rebel commander Sam Bockarie alias "Mosquito", were at large.

The Court, created through an agreement between the UN and the government of Sierra Leone, has a three-year mandate to try people responsible for violating international humanitarian during Sierra Leone's rebel war. It is expected to work side by side with the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.