Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone truth hearings to start in April

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FREETOWN, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up by the government to help heal the scars caused by one of Africa's most brutal civil wars, said it would start hearings on April 7.

The commission, styled on the body with the same name which helped South Africans come to terms with the apartheid era, is meant as a public forum for victims and persecutors alike to tell their stories and voice their grievances.

It will have no power to punish, unlike a special United Nations war tribunal which is due to try about 20 ringleaders accused of the worst atrocities in the West African country's decade-long conflict.

Sierra Leone's war, marked by crimes against civilians such as the amputation of limbs, mass rape and forced recruitment of child soldiers, was declared over in January last year after U.N. peacekeepers disarmed more than 47,000 fighters.

U.N. officials have said testimonies given before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would not be used by the special court to prosecute people.

The two institutions would operate independently but both would work towards the goal of addressing human rights abuses and accountability for those responsible, the officials said.

The court is expected to begin proceedings in the former British colony later this year but no date has been set yet.

The commission's chairman, Bishop Joseph Humper, told a news conference on Wednesday that 3,500 testimonies had so far been received and more were expected throughout March.

He said the commission needed $4 million to complete its work and would shortly embark on a fund-raising mission to the United States.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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