The pace of proceedings in the RUF trial quickened considerably this week, with the prosecution more than doubling the number of witnesses it had called thus far in the last four days of the session. This change of pace was largely assisted by a tactical decision taken by the Defense to refrain entirely from cross-examining two of the witnesses called, a decision likely to have been adopted due to the sensitive nature of these witnesses’ testimony.
Trial Chamber No.1 heard further testimony of witnesses corroborating the evidence regarding alleged attacks on civilians in the Kono district by rebel combatants in early to mid-1998. In particular, the witnesses gave crime base testimony relating to alleged acts of sexual violence, unlawful killings and physical violence, as well as the use of civilians for forced labour in the camp at Wondedu and both in and around Tombodu.
AFRC Commanders Staf Alhaji (also known as Al Hadji Bayoh) and Savage were particularly implicated in the testimony of Witness TF1-012, supporting evidence given by Witness TF1-304 during the first week of the session. The on-going implication of Alhaji and Savage in the testimony of the proceedings is particularly noteworthy, given civil society groups in Sierra Leone identified them to Human Rights Watch as mid-level commanders who they thought should be indicted by the Special Court.
Issues of disclosure continued to dominate the proceedings, with the Chamber issuing two further rulings regarding the Prosecution’s disclosure obligations to the Defense. These rulings have important implications for the nature and timing of the disclosure of material evidence during the course of the proceedings. And without a word or any warning, each of the first and second accused returned to the proceedings after their two-week absence. The third accused, Augustine Gbao, remains absent from the proceedings and, according to informal interviews with his legal counsel, has made no mention of wanting to return.
The session ended with a total of 25 witnesses having testified in the RUF trial thus far. Due to the new six-week timetable adopted by the court and a two week break over Easter, the trial is slated to resume on 5 April 2005.