Special Court for Sierra Leone, CDF Trial, Update 4
Special Court for Sierra Leone
After a five-week recess during the month of August, the Special Court for Sierra Leone resumed the trial session of Civilian Defense Forces (CDF) defendants Sam Hinga Norman, Moinina Fofana, and Allieu Kondewa. Under the combined indictment, the defendants are charged with eight counts of violations of international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings, physical violence and mental suffering, looting and burning, terrorizing civilian populations and collective punishments, and using child soldiers. These crimes are charged primarily as violations of Common Article III of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, with two exceptions: the first count of murder is brought as a crime against humanity, and the use of child soldiers is a novel charge brought under the blanket category of “other serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
The CDF case will continue through the end of September, after which the Trial Chamber will resume hearing the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) case. Since no judges for the second Trial Chamber have yet been appointed, the first Trial Chamber will be alternating between the CDF and the RUF cases in the coming months. The start date of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) trial is still unknown at this time.
The prosecution called three further witnesses who recounted the alleged events of February 1998 in Koribondo and one witness who has testified regarding his capture and conscription as a child soldier. This brings the total number of witnesses heard thus far in the CDF trial to seven. In both examination and cross-examination, the first three witnesses’ testimony focused on the burning of houses and looting of property in Koribondo as well as the killing of civilians and alleged rebel sympathizers. The prosecution attempted to demonstrate Sam Hinga Norman’s accountability for the atrocities committed in Koribondo by focusing their witness examinations on statements that Norman allegedly made at a town meeting shortly after the considered events took place. The fourth witness described his participation in RUF operations after he was forcibly conscripted following the killing of his father. Two years later, at the age of fourteen, he was captured by CDF forces and underwent an initiation ceremony allegedly performed by the third accused, Allieu Kondewa.
Four of the main issues at trial this week were (i) the status of the court itself; (ii) the use of child soldiers as a novel charge; (iii) evidentiary issues related to credibility and reliability; and (iv) the treatment of witnesses and witness testimony.