FREETOWN: Eight former Sierra Leone rebels convicted of atrocities committed during the civil war will serve their prison terms in Rwanda, one of their leaders said on Saturday.

Hassan Issa Sesay, a commander of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), told a local radio station that the convicts were informed they would be taken to Rwanda on Saturday.

Sierra Leone's UN-backed tribunal upheld on Monday a 52-year prison term against Sesay as well as a 40-year sentence for another former RUF leader, Morris Kallon and 25 years for Augustine Gbao.

"We are informed this Friday that we will be taken to Rwanda today (Saturday)," Sesay told the Voice of the Handicapped radio station, while his wife could be heard sobbing in the background.

Sesay, Kallon and another convict, Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) leader Brima Bazzy Kamara, appealed for forgiveness and urged the people of Sierra Leone to call on the government and the international community not to send them to Rwanda.

The convicts said they were worried that no one will speak English there and that there are no provisions for their families to visit them.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established by the United Nations in 2002 to try those who bear "the greatest responsibility" for the atrocities during the 1991-2001 civil war. Related article: Key dates in the 1991-2001 war.

The conflict, financed largely by so-called blood diamonds, left 120,000 people dead and tens of thousands mutilated.

The court convicted leaders of the three main factions in the war: the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), the AFRC and the RUF.

The other convicts set to serve their time in Rwanda are AFRC leaders Alex Tamba Brima and Santigie Bobor Kanu -- both sentenced to 50 years -- and CDF leaders Alieu Kondewa and Moinina Fofana, who received 20 and 15 years respectively.

The court's only remaining defendant, former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who is accused of controlling the RUF, is on trial in The Hague for security reasons.