Hinga Norman (left) and RUF’s Issa Sesay : Big men -of -the – gun on trial in a land where justice is unknown.
BY KABS KANU :
The Hinga Norman trial is the household word in many Sierra Leonean circles , both in the country itself and the diaspora. In sundry social functions in America, the trial has stirred spirited and fiery debates and this newspaper is not surprised by the passion being generated by the trial. It is the most important judicial proceeding ever in our fatherland.
The trial is bound to stir up something in Sierra Leoneans because such high-profile tcases involving one of the country’s leaders are rare in the nation. The incidents of Sierra Leonean leaders called to account for their deeds before the legal system are so rare, we cannot even count them on our fingers.Sierra Leone is a country where leaders have gotten away with everything in the past. They have committed murder, genocide , politically-motivated killings, economic treason and other crimes and instead of being arrested , they flourished instead and lived their lives in pomp and material ease until they left power or died.
The idea of justice applied to her leaders is therefore alien to the Sierra Leonean, but it need not be so. No man is above the law. Justice should be meted out not only to the poor but to the high and mighty if they infringe the law. The Special Court is going to blaze a trail previously unknown not only in Sierra Leone but the whole African countinent, because, for the first time, impunity is going to be taken on head on by an international court of law.
The nation has been caught in the eye of a legal hurricane. Sierra Leone’s Special Court will stir a lot of high winds of tension and emotional storm ; it will uproot and devastate a lot of macabre mores and previously-untouched anomalies and this will be good for our country . A nd if it prosecutes the cases before it successfully, WITH TRANSPARENT JUSTICE SEEN TO HAVE BEEN DONE TO ALL THE ACCUSED , it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it will become a model of an international judicial system that will now be on standby to bring to justice all our criminal leaders who have created a culture of impunity on this continent.
It is very unfortunate that Chief Hinga Norman is among the accused about to be tried in Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He fought a gallant and fearless battle , risking his life , to save Sierra Leone from being overrun by the wicked RUF/AFRC forces.
However, his supporters must be admonished that the dispenation of fair and transparent justice does not only entail the punishment of wrongdoers but the exoneration of those falsely accused. If Norman’s indictment is politically-motivated as his supporters are claiming and if he is innocent of the charges, this is his golden moment to prove and establish his innocense before God and man once and for all. It will even be his moment of triumph as he will for once put to shame those he and supporters perceive as his enemies and his political future may even get a tremenduous kick start . But death has to ensue before we approach the portals of Heaven. Man must die to live again. Being dragged to court after what he did for the nation appears grevious to Chief Norman. He believes that he has done no wrong and is innocent of the charges.
However, he has to prove his innocence through legal methods , for in a civilized and decent society it is the only avenue through which people accused of grave crimes exonerate themselves. Would it not be a thing of joy and glory for the family and supporters of Norman for him to prove his innocence before such a n important body as the U.N Sponsored war crimes tribunal ?
This newspaper therefore wants to appeal to all Sierra Leoneans, whether supporters of Hinga Norman or not, to hold back their eccentricities and sensibilities about having their leader put on trial and wait on the wheels of justice. This newspaper believes that the trials will be fairly conducted and the eyes of the international community and humanitarian organizations will be skewed on to the sessions to ensure that every accused person is treated as innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.But the court itself has shown that it is mindful of the legal rights of the accused.
Turning the trial into a circus or a platform that subversive elements will capitalize on to sow seeds of chaos in our beloved country is not the way to go If some of the accused have the ambition to run for the highest office in the land in future,, this is the right opportunity for them to prove that they respect the rule of law and the administration of transparent justice.It is the only way that Sierra Leoneans will be convinced that when these men come to power, they will respect the rule of law and the tenets of democracy.
Whatever we may say, horrenduous crimes were committed against the Sierra Leonean people during the war and only men without conscience or moral values would loath the idea of the accused ring-leaders facing their day before this international tribunal. We have to realize that there are on the other side of the spectrum the thousands upon thousands who suffered beatings, rapes, amputations and cruel death during the war .Their interests have to be sought by the law. Nobody deserves what the people of Sierra Leone went through during the war. And some justice has to be meted out to avoid a recurrence or relapse of our bestial instincts.
Impunity is one thing we do not want to see prevail in our country anymore. After this trial, hopefully, we will learn to conduct our political affairs , and even war, according to prescribed international conventions and the law. We will realise that the days are gone when the world would turn a blind eye to the willful and unnecessary atrocities we commit against innocent people in our midst. Within the vortex of today’s global watchfulness for law and order, social justice and democracy, there is a place for the Special Court.
Let us therefore conduct ourselves like truely civilized people and wait on the Special Court to do its work. Those that are guilty will be found culpable and those that have done no wrong will have their innocence proved before the whole world. This is not too much to ask and if we love our nation we will embrace such an impartial international judicial system which has come to bring justice to a situation that saw the most brutal and lawless war ever fought on this continent
TO BE CONTINUED