Prosecutor v. Brima

Case No. SCSL-2004-16-A (2008)

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Prosecutor v. Brima

Special Court for Sierra Leone, Appeals Chamber
Case No. SCSL-2004-16-A (2008)

  • Written by Alexander Hager-DeMyer, JD

Facts

Rebel militiamen in Sierra Leone (militiamen) (defendants) engaged in a practice known as bush or forced marriage. As part of this practice, girls were abducted and forcibly married off to members of the militia. The victims were forced to engage in sexual acts and perform domestic chores exclusively for their husbands while travelling with the militia. The prosecutor (plaintiff) filed criminal charges against the militiamen for these acts, and the militiamen were tried in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, an international criminal tribunal. The prosecutor chose not to classify bush marriage as a form of sexual violence and instead charged the militiamen with, among other charges, a new crime against humanity under the statutory category of other inhumane acts. The militiamen objected to the use of a new crime against humanity, arguing that the creation of a new crime violated the principle of legality under international humanitarian law. The tribunal’s trial chamber agreed and dismissed the novel-crime charge. The trial chamber found that the category of other inhumane acts excluded all crimes of a sexual nature because other parts of the tribunal’s statute covered and explicitly enumerated all types of sexual crimes. The chamber concluded that the use of the term wife in bush marriage contemplated ownership rather than a marital status and that bush marriage was primarily a sexual act akin to sexual slavery. Consequently, the trial chamber found that a new crime involving forced marriage could not be created under the other-inhumane-acts category. The prosecutor appealed to the tribunal’s appeals chamber.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning ()

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