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Special Court for Sierra Leone, RUF Trial, Update 18

Justice Sow and counsel
Friday, January 21, 2005

Executive Summary:

The third session of the RUF trial is moving slowly in its second week, with only two witnesses called thus far at the midway point of this session out of a total of nineteen anticipated witnesses. Members of both the bench and the bar have expressed concern about the pace of the trial; however, the chamber appears to be caught in the tension between its concern for expeditiousness and its desire to adhere strictly to proper procedure. The court psychologist addressed the trial chamber regarding the impact of post-traumatic stress upon the testimony of a former child soldier, though this witness’s testimony was ultimately postponed due to an evidentiary dispute. The chamber instead heard testimony from an RUF insider witness this week. The voice distortion mechanism used to shield the witness’s identity presented distracting technical problems for the public gallery, and a substantial amount of testimony was delivered in closed session.

Trial proceedings began with the continued cross-examination of Witness TF1-304, the nineteenth witness of the prosecution, which concluded on Monday afternoon. The proceedings opened on Tuesday with a set of applications regarding Witness TF1-141, a former child soldier, whose testimony was ultimately postponed to allow the bench time to rule on an issue raised by the defense regarding the possible introduction of new evidence by the witness. Witness TF1-071 was called in the afternoon session, and he continued to testify for the remainder of the week regarding what he had allegedly witnessed as an insider within the RUF command structure. The majority of his testimony was delivered in closed session, and the remainder of his public testimony primarily concerned the RUF chain of command in the Kono district from late 1997 through 2000.

As was the case last week, none of the three accused attended trial proceedings this week. There is no further information as to if or when they may return, though they are continuing to be represented by counsel at trial, and with the exception of Augustine Gbao, they are continuing to maintain contact with their respective counsel.