Sierra Leone war crime witnesses recount horrors

A woman who was forced to watch a militia torture and execute her two brothers described her ordeal to journalists last week under a new initiative launched by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC).

The TRC organisation - set up to assist victims of the country's brutal civil war come to terms with their losses and bring war criminals to justice - set up the interviews in a bid to draw international attention to its work and the suffering of the war's victims.

Forcing back tears over a three-hour long interview last weekend Adama Conteh, 38, said she was forced to watch the executions of her two brothers, Baimba and Amadu, 12 and 15 years respectively, by soldiers from the Kamajor militia.

The Kamajor militia's alleged human rights abuses include torturing and summarily executing opponents and recruiting child fighters. The allegations are denied by leaders of the group.

The Kamajor are loyal to the country's President, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and fought during the war against rebels who were attempting to overthrow him.

Adama said members of the militia stormed her village in the center of Sierra Leone. “They killed my two brothers in front of my eyes and they said they would kill me too if I refused to clap for them."

She said the Kamajors first chopped her brother, Amadu’s left arm off and then proceeded to hack off his right arm. She said the soldiers finished by cutting his throat and drinking his blood.

She added they had already cut her youngest brother's throat after which point she was told to start clapping and singing for the Kamajors as they began torturing and murdering her older brother.

Adama said her alleged crime was passing on information to a local journalist, William Fewry, who she said the Kamajors believed was working for an international human rights organisation.

She said members of the Kamajor militia visited her home more than three times; where they tortured her and demanded the whereabouts of Fewry and his family.

The Kamajors threatened to kill her if she refused to reveal the journalist’s hideout.

According to Adama, Fewry had already left the country, probably for Guinea in fear of his life. She denies passing on information to him.

Adama's testimony is one of many to be cited to newspaper and television reporters under the project by TRC in Sierra Leone.

The Committee hopes to collect statements from about 700 victims and perpetrators of violence which erupted in March 1991 after armed combatants crossed the border from Liberia into the South-Eastern part of the country.

During another recent interview one lady told reporters her son was forced to eat the body parts of a relative who had been killed by members of same militia.