Thursday, June 03, 2004

Sierra Leone: war crimes court opens first case

The court's first case is the joint trial of the three leaders of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), the now-defunct pro-government civilian militia.

The men are:
  • Sam Hinga Norman -- former interior minister & deputy defence minister, head of CDF
  • Moinina Fofana -- former National Director of War of the CDF
  • Allieu Kondewa -- former High Priest of the CDF

    The three men are facing eight counts including unlawful killing, terroriizing the civilian population, and using child soldiers. (Full-text of indictment.)

    The trial was briefly suspended soon after as it started due to audio problem ... and when it resumed, Norman announced his intention to act as his own council.
    Some in Sierra Leone see Mr Norman as a hero who helped put down the rebels and restore democracy. But yesterday the prosecution promised a stream of witnesses to prove that Mr Norman and his right-hand men - Moinina Fofana and Allieu "King" Kondewa - were guilty of eight counts of crimes against humanity.
    The joint trial of three leaders of the rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - Augustine Gbao, Morris Kallon and Issa Hassan Sesay - will start on July 5.

    Although the court has indicted 13 people, only nine are in custody ... Foday Sankoh is dead and Charles Taylor is in exile in Nigeria.

    The court is run jointly by the UN and Sierra Leone ... and its three-year mandate expires next year.

    Special Court for Sierra Leone

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    On Monday, May 31, the Special Court rejected Charles Taylor's appeal, ruling that it has the right to try Taylor for war crimes. Taylor had claimed that he was entitled to immunity since he had been President of Liberia when the indictment was handed down last year.