Mother -of- all -trials


By  Rev. Alfred SamForay  :

This week, the Appeals Chamber of the so-called Special Court for Sierra
Leone will handle two hot potatoes on its plate: The fate of Appeals Chamber
President Renate Winter and the issue of Child Soldiers under Count 8 of the
charges against Chief Hinga Norman, Mr. Moinina Fofana and Dr. Alieu Kondewa. To
wit: Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed
forces or groups or using them to participate, actively in hostilities in
violation of international humanitarian law.


In short, the prosecution claims that the
CDF leaders put children in harms way or failed to ensure their security in
violation what the prosecution calls “Serious Violation of International
Humanitarian Law”. The crux of the Defense argument is that the Optional Protocol
to the Convention on the Right of the Child which deals with the involvement of
children in combat came into being in February 2002, nearly one year after
the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities between the CDF and RUF which
essentially means that there were no child combatants in Sierra Leone after it
became illegal and that the court cannot apply the law retroactively. The Americans
who are bankrolling the Sierra Leone tribunal had delayed signing the
protocol probably because the United States was being criticized as the only country
which admits to executing children.


The CDF further argues that the children
in question volunteered to protect their towns, families and themselves under
the universal doctrine of self defense. Many of these children took refuge with
the CDF after their homes and villages were destroyed by the RUF and their
families either massacred or made to flee for their lives. In any case, my
understanding of the protocol on children in combat is that it applies only to
private armies. The CDF was a government regulated militia created by an Act of
Parliament under the command and control of the Commander-in-Chief and
Minister of Defence, President Tejan Kabbah.

Sierra Leone jurist and Appeals Chamber judge, Gelaga King, seems to lean
towards the arguments put forth by J. B. Jenkins-Johnston and the CDF defense
team. Readers may recall a few months back that Justice King grilled the
prosecution on the inherent rights of a child to self-defence. “What if a child, be
they five years old or fifteen years old, decides to join a group (such as the
Kamajors) which is fighting against another group (such as the RUF) which is
aiming to harm that child, his family or his village? Does that child not have
an inherent right to defend his village, his family or himself under
international law?” King asked the prosecution. “And what if I give my child a gun to
defend me or my home which is being invaded by another in other to save my life,
my home or my family? Do I not have an inherent right to defend myself?”
Justice King’s argument continued. David Crane and his team appeared to have been
unprepared for this line of thinking from the judge. On the eve of the trial,
David Crane has apparently become paranoid about the integrity of his case
and the security of his so-called witnesses. So many draconian rules have been
implemented in the past few days limiting the freedom of speech and movements
of Norman’s Defense Team, the Press and Norman supporters one would think that
Mr. Crane was still running covert operations at the US military. “What Crane
really wants is a secret tribunal,” one Norman supporter said. “But that is
not likely to happen in Sierra Leone.”

Although we are unable to comment on the specifics of the case and especially
Defense strategies as we prepare to go to trial, we are certain that this
trial will be the Mother of all Trials in Sierra Leone and international
jurisprudence. Mr. Norman remains defiant and at irreconcilable odds with his own
government and party leaders. He has told friends and supporters that the trial
will open the lid on a myriad of issues on the role of President Kabbah and
certain government officials in the conduct of the war, the AFRC coup d’tat, the
RUF plundering of Freetown in 1999 and the Foday Sankoh fiasco that culminated
in the deaths of eighteen civilians at Sankoh’s residence on May 8th, 2000. We
are of the opinion that some individuals, who now enjoy in comfort the blood,
sweat and tears of the CDF while claiming to be independent of their actions
will wish that the whole bloody issue had been left alone. Some who gave
birth to the so-called Special Court and still defend its erratic activities thus
far may wish, once the trial starts, that the genie had not been let out of
the bottle. Any body who equipped the CDF for war or directed its activities be
they domestic or foreign government or military officials should reasonably
assume that the trial of the CDF is a trial for all of those who participated in
the Sierra Leone conflict for or against the legitimate government. For us,
it is a no holds barred and no sacred cows (as per Tejan Kabbah). We are
certain that once the whole truth comes out in the matter of Prosecutor versus Sam
Hinga Norman, et al, there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth in high

Hinga Norman versus Judge Renate Winter
On Tuesday, the Appeals Chamber
will consider the fate of its presiding judge and President of the Court,
Austrian Jurist, Renate Winter. Defense Counsels for Chief Hinga Norman and Mr.
Moinina Fofana argue that Justice Winter should be disqualified from presiding
over the hearing on the issue of child soldiers because Winter collaborated with
UNICEF and an Italian-based group called No Peace Without Justice which
previously published a book on the subject. Norman and Fofana argue that as
President of the Appeals Chamber and Ayatollah Supremo of the entire court, Justice
Winter’s collaboration on the UNICEF-NPWJ report makes her police, judge,
jury and executioner over the child soldier issue. Winter replaced Geoffrey
Robertson as President of the court when similar conflict of interest charges
were brought against Robertson by Gen. Hassan Isa Sesay of the RUF. Crane’s
lukewarm argument that Justice Winter gave expert advice and support to the
UNICEF-NPWJ report but did support its conclusions sounds much like former
President Bill Clinton’s revelation that he smoked weed at Oxford but did not inhale
the smoke. Chief Norman himself appears to be in good health and in high
spirits despite a recent death in his immediate family. He is anxious for the trial
to start as are his colleagues, Moinina Fofana and Alieu Kondewa, according to
those who have seen or spoken to him recently.

Government versus Hinga Norman
The harassment of Chief Norman, his family and supporters by the Sierra Leone
Police and certain members of the SLPP continue in the areas of his
accommodation and private bank account. Substitute Minister of Internal Affairs, George
Banda Thomas, appears to have taken upon himself a personal crusade to evict
Mr. Norman’s family out of their present living quarters at both Mr. Norman’s
official residence as well as his rented villa at Cape Sierra Hotel. For
reasons known only to Banda Thomas, dependents of Mr. Norman have been locked out
of the government-owned villa without notice.

Government has also refused to pay salaries owed to Mr. Norman since last
January claiming that Mr. Norman’s account was inaccessible even though the
freeze on the account had long been lifted by the court. Meanwhile, the Sierra
Leone Police continue to arbitrarily arrest supporters of Chief Norman wearing
T-shirts bearing logos and statements supporting Mr. Norman and his colleagues.
Government or some officers of the police seem to forget that the right of the
people to assemble peacefully and redress their legitimate discontent is
inherent in our national laws and customs as well as the universal rights of all
free citizens of the world. Our advice to government is that it should stick to
its self-imposed rubbish of neutrality and let us deal with the so-called
Special Court for the time being. We will deal with the party and government at
the appropriate time and place.




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