Salone News

Special Court Judge Meets Law Students

29 October 2006 at 10:56 | 1477 views

By Our Correspondent.

He was the guest speaker at the University of East London’s Centre on Human Rights in Conflict inaugural public lecture in October 2006. Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Appeals Chamber Judge, Geoffrey Robertson Q.C., spoke about "Crimes Against Humanity: Developments in International Criminal Law".

He premised his expose on the English radical lawyer, John Cook, and the prominent role he played in the trial of King Charles I in 1649. For the first time in English history, the QC noted, a Head of State was brought to account for the crimes of tyranny and oppression against his people. The trial of Charles I, Judge Robertson continued, is indeed a precursor to the recent trials of General Augusto Pinochet, Slobodan Miloevi, Saddam Hussein and Charles Taylor, to name but a few, for war crimes, crimes against humanity and oppression against their people, and in Taylor’s case, also against the people of Sierra Leone.

Following the lecture, Judge Robertson met a cross-section of international law students including two Sierra Leoneans - Messrs Alfred Conteh (aka Palo Conteh) and Patrick Hassan-Morlai. The Judge expressed positive views about the progress Sierra Leone is making and noted that “the country needs every Sierra Leonean to contribute to its development”.

When asked by Mr. Conteh, who will be graduating this November with LLM in Human Rights Law, whether the Special Court is making significant impact in the country, Judge Robertson answered in the affirmative, and continued that the involvement of Sierra Leonean lawyers in the Court’s business is sure to leave a positive legacy within the legal sector of the country, long after the Court has finished its work.

For this reason, the Judge added, Sierra Leonean lawyers and law students abroad and in the UK in particular, should come home to participate in the new dawn of a Sierra Leone where the rule of law is firmly rooted. Judge Robertson concluded that “the Special Court and other law related organizations in Sierra Leone do offer very good job opportunities for Sierra Leonean lawyers and law graduates; and this could also be an attractive incentive to come home.”

Meanwhile,according to a Special Court press release, the final Defence witness testified last Thursday in the trial of three alleged former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Following procedural matters on Friday, the Defence case has come to an end.

Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu each face a 14-count indictment alleging war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. All of the accused have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The AFRC-Accused trial began in March 2005. The Prosecution rested its case in November 2006.

Since the opening of the Defence case in June 2006, Judges of Trial Chamber II have heard testimony from 87 witnesses. This included evidence from First Accused Tamba Brima, who testified in his own defence.

The Trial Chamber has scheduled closing arguments for 7 December.

This is the second Defence case to close in trials at the Special Court. Last month, the Defence rested in the case of The Prosecutor vs. Sam Hinga Norman, Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa (the CDF-Accused).

Meanwhile, in the case of The Prosecutor vs. Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao (the RUF-Accused), Trial Chamber I handed down its oral decision Wednesday on Defence Motions for Judgment of Acquittal. The Trial Chamber ordered the Accused to defend on all 14 counts in the indictment. It ruled, however, that the Defence would not need to present a case regarding a number of towns and villages listed in the particulars where, in the Court’s view, the Prosecution had not led evidence capable of sustaining a conviction.

The case of The Prosecutor vs. Charles Ghankay Taylor, which is being conducted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone at The Hague, is still in the pre-trial phase and is tentatively scheduled to begin on 2 April 2007.

Photo: Geoffrey Robertson.