Salone News

Sierra Leone: CDF Defence Rests It’s Case

30 November 2006 at 22:45 | 464 views

Commentary

By Alfred Munda SamForay, CDF Defence Fund & Sierra Leone Working Group.
30 November, 2006

“Hinga Norman is not a war criminal; he is a war hero,” H.E. Peter Penfold, former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone.

The defence in the matter of Prosecutor versus Sam Norman, Moinina Fofana and Alieu Kondewa today gave the final and closing arguments for the three CDF defendants. Counsel for Mr. Norman, Dr. Bubuakei Jabbi, began his closing arguments on Tuesday and concluded on Wednesday. Counsel for Mr. Fofana, Dr. Steven Powles and Counsel for Dr. Kondewa, Mr. Yada Williams, closed their cases today.

The three-judge Trial Chamber did not set the date for the verdict as originally planned. Chief Norman(photo) reportedly boycotted the Tuesday morning session of the proceedings to draw the court’s attention to the cavalier attitude the court has expressed towards his proposed treatment for injuries he incurred during his transfer to Bonthe Island following his arrest in March 2003.

He was later present in the Tuesday afternoon and Wednsday sessions as well as today’s final session. Our courtroom observers noted with regret that counsels for Norman and Kondewa were less than spectacular in their closing arguments considering the historical significance of the trial. Counsel for Mr. Fofana, Dr. Steven Powles, on the other hand was reported to be magnificent, carrying the day for the CDF Defence team. Powles reportedly debunked the prosecution’s case point by point, leaving nothing to chance.

Our observers were also of the opinion that the prosecution’s case against Norman and his two CDF co-defendants are at best weak and possibly a mere exercise in futility. Three and half years after their arrest, three Chief Prosecutors, and over 50 million dollars later, the prosecution appears to have no case against the CDF leaders. After it is all said and done, this may well be the most ridiculous exercise in international jurisprudence in history.

One can now begin to understand why former Pentagon spy chief turned prosecutor, David Crane skipped town before his promise to teach Africans the rule of law came to fruition. More so why Crane’s successor, Desmond de Silva QC, who defended Chief Hinga Norman in Sierra Leone’s first coup trial nearly forty years ago also left town promising to return if he was ever needed to try the real culprit of the Sierra Leone civil war, Charles Taylor, now being tried in the Hague.

The three CDF defendants are being tried for eight counts of alleged violations of Article III Common to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II (known as War Crimes), crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Charges include murder, looting, terrorizing civilians, placement of minors in combat and the most ridiculous of all, cannibalism. Mr. Norman, himself a child soldier in the colonial Boy’s Platoon, is the first person in history to be charged with recruiting and enlisting persons under fifteen years of age for combat.

The prosecution alleges among other things, that Norman, Fofana and Kondewa, as leaders of the Kamajor Wing of the Sierra Leone Civil Defence Forces (CDF) either authorized or failed to stop persons under their command from committing the alleged offences contrary to the rules of command responsibility. The UN tribunal in an apparent case of selective justice, however failed to indict Mr. Norman’s superiors including President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who is Minister of Defence and commander-in-chief. The court also refused to effect a subpoena on Mr. Kabbah who was Defence Witness No.1 for Mr. Norman and Mr. Fofana to testify.

Although the Kamajors were only one wing of the government-sponsored Sierra Leone Civil Defence Forces (SL-CDF), which fought alongside the West African defence force, ECOMOG to twice return constitutional rule to Sierra Leone, the Prosecutor only charged the Kamajors with bearing the greatest responsibility for violating the protocols of war. The 1999 Lome Peace Accord brokered by the UN and the United States stated that “To consolidate the peace and promote the cause of national reconciliation, the Government of Sierra Leone shall ensure that no official or judicial action is taken against any member of the RUF/SL, ex-AFRC, ex-SLA or CDF in respect of anything done by them in pursuit of their objectives as members of those organisations, since March 1991, up to the time of the signing of the present Agreement.”

Notwithstanding the Prosecutor in collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone set aside the immunity provision of the Lome Accord and went after Mr. Norman and his colleagues. Both the Lome Accord as well as the agreement for the so-called special court for Sierra Leone were negotiated by Kabbah’s then Attorney General and now Vice President, Solomon Berewa.

So the CDF case, weak as it might be has, however, apparently put a permanent rift between Mr. Kabbah and his heir-apparent, Solomon Berewa, on one hand and Chief Norman and the Kamajors on the other. The Kamajors blame Kabbah and Berewa for either engineering the arrest of the CDF leaders, failing to safe guard them or for failure to support their families once they were arrested.

For this and other reasons, Norman has apparently refused to endorse or support Mr. Berewa’s bid to replace Kabbah as President, twice taking the ruling SLPP to the Sierra Leone Supreme Court in an effort to disallow the election of Mr. Berewa as Party Leader citing violations of various provisions of the national constitution.

On both occasions the high court refused to hear the case claiming lack of jurisdiction in the matter. Norman has now apparently released the Kamajors from any previous obligations to support their traditional allies, the SLPP. The SLPP, for its part, desperately needs the support of Mr. Norman and the Kamajors to fend off a vicious challenge for the presidency by another former SLPP leader, Charles Francis Margai, and his newly registered PMDC party for the South-Eastern vote.

Norman and his two CDF co-defendants have apparently reached their own political decisions which may or may not include the SLPP, and are expected to make a public statement to that effect very shortly.

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