Trial Monitoring

Special Court for Sierra Leone, AFRC Trial, Update 51

July 29, 2005
Michelle Staggs
Special Court for Sierra Leone, AFRC Trial, Update 51
Case or Series

AFRC Trial

Case or Series

Special Court for Sierra Leone


Sierra Leone



In what became its final week at trial before the summer break, the prosecution called 3 crime base witnesses in the AFRC trial, bringing the total number called thus far to forty-eight. All the witnesses gave evidence relating to events that occurred in the Bombali district in Sierra Leone’s Northern Province. Two of the witnesses who testified this week (Witness TF1-157 and Witness TF1-158) are allegedly former child combatants who trained with the AFRC in 1998. A third witness, TF1-267 is a Category “A” witness (victim of sexual violence) and testified with the use of voice distortion.

A question mark hangs over the admissibility of the testimony of Witness TF1-157, after he informed the Chamber during cross-examination that the interpreter was speaking the Guinean form of his dialect (Mandingo) rather than the dialect used in Sierra Leone. The continuation of the witness’s testimony has been suspended pending further investigation by the head of the court’s translation unit.

Further issues relating to translation arose this week, as the defense forcefully cross-examined witnesses on the terminology used in their statements in an attempt to allege that the words used had not “come from the mouth of the witness”. Agreeing with the arguments asserted by the prosecution, the Chamber took the view that the differences in the terms used resulted from a divergence in the vernacular used by English and the languages being translated. In particular, Judge Sebutinde voice her dissent to this line of questioning, arguing that the defense was effectively speaking at cross-purposes with the witness.

Finally, after much discussion on Thursday morning regarding the prosecution’s core witness list, the Chamber agreed with both the defense and prosecution that the prosecution’s forty-ninth witness, TF1-167 would be called next session.