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Archive for March, 2003

CAN THE SPECIAL COURT REALLY DELIVER JUSTICE ? A REJOINDER

Thursday, March 13th, 2003

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CHIEF HINGA NORMAN

By a concerned citizen 

One would  have thought  that an international tribunal like the Sierra Leone Special Court should have been given the necessary authority and international jurisdiction to arrest at will any accused person , wherever he is domiciled in the world. But this was never done. Therefore , hardened war criminals are at large while the men who fought them are in jail.  It is a mockery of justice for a man like Hinga Norman to be languishing in jail while Charles Taylor, the devil himself, who instigated all the chaos and suffering , is enjoying amnesty in Nigeria. There is absolutely no excuse  for this bizarre  twist of events . The fault is not the court’s. It is the UN  and the Kabbah government who negotiated the formation of the court that should be flayed in this respect.

Taylor and many of his accomplices like Prince Yormie Johnson , Ben Yeaten , Issac  Musa  and others  who deliberately sought to provoke  and bring to action the sequence of events that led to the death of a million people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea,  are breathing the sweet air of liberty while the men who fought  against them are behind bars .What do we call that ? Is it justice ? Like the many  notorious war criminals we see flourishing   in the world today, Taylor may even be gloating about this double standards . The UN  should have given the Special Court all the authority it needed to storm Nigeria with international Police and arrest Taylor. No war criminal  should be allowed to prevail , but Taylor, a man who caused the death of a million people is doing just that. It is not fair.

The corrupt nations of Africa can never co-operate with the Special Court. Their leaders themselves have skeletons in their cupboards and many of them benefited from Charles Taylor’s international criminal enterprise during his bloody reign as rebel leader and later President of Liberia.  They will always shield these war criminals because they were partners in crime. This was also responsible for the failure of the court to bring Taylor’s Army Commander Ben Yeaton to Freetown from Togo recently.  Again, the court fell victim to its own propensity to assume . It thought that all would have  well and the Togolese authorities would have  allowed Yeaten to enter the UN plane waiting for him at the Lome Airport. How can a court with such international flavour fail to be obeyed by puny nations ?

Most disturbing of the Special Court’s miscues ,  though, are the legal blunders it has committed so far. Again, the court fell into this embarassing situation because it is relying more on assumptions than evidence. Two months ago, the court announced that it had suspended all outside contacts with Hinga Norman because he was recorded on the phone trying to incite unrest in Sierra Leone. This was a very serious charge for which even Chief Norman would have lost  the goodwill he is presently enjoying from some Sierra Leoneans.We are tired of war in Sierra Leone and anyone who incites chaos is the enemy of the nation.

But as it turned out, the court erred .The tape, when it was released, did not contain any incitement by the Chief. The court lost that psychological  battle because it failed to satisfy the evidential burden that Chief Norman was engaged in incitement. Readers  are ofcourse now conversant with this week’s ruling by Justice Bankole Thompson that the Special Court failed to provide evidence that Chief Norman’s account in the Union Trust Bank in Freetown must have been accrued from  criminal avenues ( Transfer from the activities of the Kamajor militia ) .

 Again, the court must have ASSUMED  that because the Chief was indicted for war crimes and he is presently an agitated man , such allegations against him would  have been swallowed hook, line and sinker without legal scrutiny. Why the court hastily come out with this accusation without first ascertaining that Norman indeed did incite people on the tape ?  The fact that  a court of the stature of the UN-supported  tribunal should  be defeated in  such petty matters in which the burden of proof was not that intricate,  scared exponents of the court who do not want to see any of the indicted persons freed because of legal blunders by the court. How will this court fare when it comes to the nitty-gritty of a high-tension war crimes trial , in which mere speculation will not be treated with kid gloves by a hyped Defence team ?

We at the DAILY NEWS-INQUIRER  have profound respect and trust in the Special Court. Despite our  concern  about the continued incarceration of Chief Norman when   the real war criminals  who purposely endeavoured to harm the innocent people of Sierra Leone and Liberia have not been roped in,  we still have great respect for the integrity and ability of the court.We believe that the Special Court has the ability to bring justice to Sierra Leone. However , we cannot conceal the fact that we are worried about the mistakes being made by the court. Our worries are predicated  upon by the fact that we do not want the court to fail.We want those who perpetuated the culture of impunity in Sierra Leone to be punished to the full extent of the law.

It is our hope,  therefore,  that the court really did its work in procuring sufficient  relevant evidence to convict any one who actually took part in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Even a first year student in law school knows that an accused  in a criminal case is not culpable until his guilt has been established  by clear and convincing  evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. There should be no doubt about the guilt of an accused person as the accused is given the benefit of any iota of doubt. There is so much at stake here. The prosecution cannot afford to lose these cases because the future  safety of Sierra Leone hinges on them.

 A sloppy prosecution team is as bad as none.The celebrated O.J.Simpson case was lost because the prosecution shot itself in the foot when it decided on having Simpson try on the gloves alleged to have been worn by the killer of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman. The gloves did not fit and the theatrical  and brilliant  Johnny Cochran seized on that blunder with his immortal “If it does not fit, you must acquit  ” blockbuster legal argument  to plant doubts in the minds of the jury that Simpson was not the killer.

That   prosecution also erred in putting on the stand a discredited cop, Mark Furhman ,  whose background was not researched enough to find out that he had called black people ‘niggers’ before. The remarkable F. Lee Bailey tore that cop limb by limb on the stand and demolished the prosecution’s case. If David Crane doubts that there are Sierra Leonean legal luminaries with the ability to become Johnny Cochran  or F. Lee Bailey in court , he has not researched Sierra Leone  enough  to   know  that our’s is not only a land of suffering and disaster, but we have a  fabled reputation for intellectual excellence and we have  produced some of the best lawyers in Africa.

The court should not  also ASSUME  again that because the deeds done by our combatants were so horrid and satanic  , any evidence will  be enough to convince the judges of the trial chamber  and  bring a conviction. . It will be a legal calamity to so assume. The judges of the Trial Chamber have proved that they are not easily moved by sentiments. Remember George Gelega-King’s strong  and uncompromising  arument  about the need for even kids to defend themselves during the pretrial submissions on the use   of child soldiers  by the Kamajors  ?  According to the Law  of Evidence, the reliability of relevant evidence generally is a question of weight rather than admissibility.Mere circumstantial evidence that has no probative value will  never convince the judges to convict, not to mention Hearsay Evidence. There must be sufficient Direct Evidence to establish all the facts and propositions without further reasoning that those in the dock bore the greatest responsibility for the atrocities committed during the war. We hope the court has clear, convincing and  direct evidence to link the accused with every element of the crimes for which they were indicted.

Short of this, the Sierra Leonean people will lose a second time  when the people who harmed them are set free all because the prosecution did not do its job well , and the culture of impunity will not only be be enthroned then , but it will flourish throughout the land ,  as perpetuators would be encouraged by the fact that not even a UN war crimes tribunal was able to bring them to justice.

In the end, it is the Sierra Leonean people who will fail.

And we do not  want them to fail.

In this regard, our prayers are with the prosecution .We hope they succeed.

 

CAN SPECIAL COURT REALLY DELIVER JUSTICE ? PART 1

Tuesday, March 11th, 2003

David Crane

David Crane : He has the blessings of the Sierra Leonean people

CAN SPECIAL COURT REALLY DELIVER JUSTICE ? PART 1

BY KABS KANU :

Day and night, the blood of the 250,000 innocent children , women and men slaughtered by the warring factions in Sierra Leone cry out for justice from the grave. Their blood cry out day and night for justice because  they had no reason to be set upon by the fighters and wickedly bludgeoned , hacked or shot to death during the senseless Civil War in the country.Most of them were innocent citizens or foreigners who had no hands in the political dynamics in the country.

The warring factions in Sierra Leone  , in an inexplicable  shift from the principles of warfare  , hunted out only the poor, the hapless, the innocent and ordinary people instead of targetting enemy fighters. When they did not burn,  bludgeon or shoot innocent people to death, they hacked off their limbs , thereby rendering them hopeless for the rest of their lives.

Those unlucky thousands underwent that gruesome agony only because they were unfortunate to live in a country where some of their citizens had developed contempt and spite for human dignity and human life. How men and women who grew up in a country established on Godly principles could sink to such depths of moral depravity, callousness and contempt even for the God who created them could be easily attributed to the  demonic assurance  that our people have developed  that they can rape, loot, kill, amputate and steal and nothing will come out of it. It is now customary in Sierra Leone to hear men and women brag with devillish alacrity : “I will blow yor head off and nothing will come out of it. I will kill you and pay for you at the Police Station.”

One can therefore empathise with men like Dr. David Crane , Geoffrey Robertsen and other members of the Special Court in their unbriddled zeal to make sure that those bearing the greatest responsibility for  such diabolical mentality in Sierra Leone are given their just recompence. Only people with a warped sense of justice and patriotism will stand in the way of these men as they try to bring justice to Sierra Leone.

Thankfully, most Sierra Loneans adore the Special Court .Despite the agitation over the indictment of the Kamajor Commander, Chief Hinga Norman, whom many Sierra Leoneans believe should have been indemnified because he was fighting on the side of the effort to defeat the rapists, arsonists, anarchists and human butchers who had turned Sierra Leone into a living Hell, the generality of Sierra Leoneans still support the Special Court.

Despite their support for the court, however, some  Sierra Leoneans have lately become  sceptical about the ability of the court to succeed in its mission. The court has committed  administrative and legal blunders that should not have been seen happening in the first place. For this, the UN  and the daft government that negotiated the formation of the court should bear some of the blame.

The Special Court erred in trying  to arrest the Kingpin of the suffering of the Sierra Leonean people, Charles Taylor, while he was attending a conference in Ghana  without first putting the mechanism in action to ensure that once it issued the international warrant of arrest for Taylor, it will be implicitly executed by the host country. The court is assuming too much .It should have known that Africa , by no stretch of the imagination , is the First World.  It is unconscionable in some developed countries  for an international arrest warrant on an internationally known war criminal  to be snobbed as was done in Ghana. But this is Africa, a still dark continent , where the rule of law is not regarded and where leaders thumb their noses at international law because they too  are criminals worthy of indictment like the selfsame Charles Taylor. 

READ PART 2

 

SIERRA LEONE CAUGHT IN THE EYE OF A LEGAL HURRICANE

Monday, March 10th, 2003

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Hinga Norman (left) and RUF’s Issa Sesay : Big men -of -the – gun  on trial  in a  land where justice is unknown.

BY KABS KANU :

The Hinga Norman trial is the household word in many Sierra Leonean circles  , both in the country itself and the diaspora. In sundry social functions in America, the trial has stirred spirited and fiery debates and this newspaper is not surprised by the passion being generated by the trial. It is the most important judicial proceeding ever in our fatherland.

The trial is bound to stir up something in Sierra Leoneans because such high-profile tcases  involving one of the country’s leaders are rare in the nation. The incidents of  Sierra Leonean leaders  called to account  for their deeds before the legal system  are so rare, we cannot even count them on our fingers.Sierra Leone is a country where leaders have gotten away with everything in the past. They have committed murder, genocide , politically-motivated killings, economic treason and other crimes and instead of being arrested , they flourished instead and lived their lives in pomp and material ease until they left power or died.

The idea of justice applied to her leaders is therefore alien to the Sierra Leonean, but it need not be so. No man is above the law. Justice should be meted out not only to the poor but to the high and mighty if they infringe the law. The Special Court is going to blaze a trail previously unknown not only in Sierra Leone but the whole African countinent, because, for the first time, impunity is going to be taken on head on by an international court of law.

The nation has been caught in the eye of a legal hurricane. Sierra Leone’s Special Court will stir a lot of high winds of tension    and emotional storm ; it  will uproot  and devastate a lot of  macabre  mores and previously-untouched  anomalies  and this will be good for our country  . A nd if it prosecutes the cases  before it successfully, WITH TRANSPARENT JUSTICE SEEN TO HAVE BEEN DONE TO ALL THE ACCUSED , it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it will become a model of an international judicial system that will now  be on standby to bring to justice all our criminal leaders who have created a culture of impunity on this continent.

It is very unfortunate that Chief Hinga Norman is among the accused about to be tried in Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He fought a gallant and fearless battle , risking his life , to save Sierra Leone from being overrun by the wicked RUF/AFRC forces.

However, his supporters must be admonished that the dispenation of fair and transparent justice does not only entail the punishment of wrongdoers but the exoneration of those falsely accused. If Norman’s indictment is politically-motivated as his supporters are claiming and if he is innocent of the charges, this is his golden moment to prove and establish his innocense before God and man once and for all. It will even be his moment of triumph as he will for once put to shame those he and supporters perceive as his enemies and his political future may even  get a tremenduous kick start . But death has to ensue before we approach  the portals of Heaven. Man must die to live again. Being dragged to court after what he did for the nation appears grevious to Chief Norman. He believes that he has done no wrong and is innocent of the charges.

However, he has to prove his innocence through legal methods , for in a civilized and decent society it is the only avenue through which people accused of grave crimes exonerate themselves.  Would it not be a thing of joy and glory for the family and supporters of  Norman  for him to prove his innocence before such a n important body as the U.N Sponsored war crimes tribunal ?

This newspaper therefore wants to appeal to all Sierra Leoneans, whether supporters of Hinga Norman or not, to hold back their eccentricities and sensibilities about having their leader put on trial and wait on the wheels of justice. This newspaper believes that the trials will be fairly conducted and the eyes of the international community and humanitarian  organizations will be skewed on to the sessions to ensure that every accused person is treated as innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.But the court itself has shown that it is mindful of the legal rights of the accused.

Turning the trial into a circus or a platform that subversive elements will  capitalize on to sow seeds of chaos in our beloved country is not the way to go  If some of the accused have the ambition to run for the highest office in the land in future,, this is the right opportunity for them to prove that they respect the rule of law and the administration of transparent justice.It is the only way that Sierra Leoneans will be convinced that when these men come to power, they will respect the rule of law and the tenets of democracy.

Whatever we may say, horrenduous crimes were committed against the Sierra Leonean people during the war and only men without conscience or moral values would loath the idea of the accused ring-leaders facing their day before this international tribunal. We have to realize that there are on the other side of the spectrum the thousands upon thousands who suffered beatings, rapes, amputations and cruel death during the war .Their interests have to be sought by the law. Nobody deserves what the people of Sierra Leone went through during the war. And some justice has to be meted out to avoid a recurrence or relapse of our bestial instincts.

Impunity is one thing we do not want to see prevail in our country anymore. After this trial, hopefully, we will learn to conduct our political affairs , and even war,  according to prescribed international conventions and the law. We will realise that the days are gone when the world would turn a blind eye to the willful and unnecessary atrocities we commit against innocent people in our midst. Within the vortex of today’s global watchfulness for law and order, social justice and democracy, there is a place for the Special Court.

Let us therefore conduct ourselves like truely civilized people and wait on the Special Court to do its work. Those that are guilty will be found culpable and those that have done no wrong will have their innocence proved before the whole world. This is not too much to ask and if we love our nation we will embrace such an impartial international judicial system which  has come to bring justice to a situation that saw the most brutal and lawless  war ever fought on this continent

 

 

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

SIERRA LEONE IS NO LONGER ANYBODY’S FIEFDOM

Sunday, March 2nd, 2003

EDITORIAL

 

Thanks to the intervention into our internal affairs by the international community, Sierra Leone is no longer the personal fiefdom of any one person, group of persons, tribe, region or what-have-you.

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The 1997  international outrage and intervention to crush the catastrophic AFRC/RUF  military coup , the commendable intiative by Britain and the UN  to help end the rebel war in 2000, the setting up of the War Crimes Tribunal in Sierra Leone through the efforts of the UN, The United States and the government and the recent travel ban to the U.S. slapped on government officials involved in corruption  by the Bush Administration are strong indications that the international community can no longer sit by and watch anybody turn Sierra Leone into his/her father’s cassava farm.

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The benevolent world has harkened to the reality that a country rich in every imaginable human and natural resources has been turned into a hell for innocent people by unscrupulous persons going with the impression that Sierra Leone is their personal property. And now, they are ready to go the dog’s end to ensure that Sierra Leone’s rulers, governors and public officials play the game according to accepted norms and practices or face the wrath of America, Britain , the U.N  and the international community.

This is brilliant news for all Sierra Leoneans who do not have the same inclinations as the politicians and public functionaries. The meaning of this international watchdog role in our affairs by Britain, the U.S, the UN  and others  is that people will eventually change how they conduct business in our beloved country. It will not be surprising if one day international courts like the war crimes tribunal are brought  to  our country by stakeholders to punish nationwreckers who siphon our money and proceeds from illegal dealings in our natural resources into foreign banks.

If we do not want to manage our affairs according to internationally-accepted standards, the international community will teach us how to do so.. We urge the U.S.  government and donor nations to go beyond the U.S. travel ban by sending financial experts into Sierra Leone to  work in every ministry or public department to oversee how foreign loans and other economic and logistical assistance are being used. Ministers and public officials are playing ducks and drakes with these much-needed funds meant to develop the country and alleviate the suffering of the people.

Indeed, no more will any group of soldiers or armed bandits seize power in our country. The international community will not recognize them and they and the people will eventually send them packing. No longer will any government flagrantly rig an election and be allowed to stay in power. Whoever succeeds President Kabbah as SLPP Standard Bearer  and other party leaders must watch out. The 2007 General Elections will not be easy pickings  for anyone determined to cheat and defeat the people’s will. Also, no  longer will any region, tribe or group of persons be allowed to  constitute themselves into a terrorist organization to promote any kind of hegemony in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans will go about their personal affairs without any fear of vigilantee mobs.

We salute the U.S, Britain, UN  and other nations of goodwill trying to clean up  our nation. They have the support of the honest and hard-working Sierra Leonean who toils day and night for survival and wants to see meaningful socio-economic and political change in the country. Those who think that international intervention into our poorly-managed affairs is neo-colonialism are thinking  while standing on their heads. They are unprogressive citizens with no serious interest in patriotism or the suffering of our people. And one thing can be said to them too : There is no place for them in the  running of the new Sierra Leone envisioned by those who have our bosom interests at heart.  

THE CRY FOR JUSTICE IN SIERRA LEONE

Sunday, March 2nd, 2003

YOUNG GIRL AMPUTEE1

By KABS KANU :

The Special Court, which started its sittings in Sierra Leone , has generated some misunderstanding , that should not be the case.  

The fact that there are people among those indicted for war crimes who should not have been among the accused, as their supporters contend, should not make us miss the fact that there was need for a war crimes tribunal  in a country where the greatest harm imaginable was perpetuated against innocent people, some of them infants.

Look at this beautiful and sweet baby. How would you have felt if she was your daughter or sister ? The barbaric people who amputated her right hand certainly were not thinking about the strides that man had made in civilization. Ungodly, conscienceless, wicked, vile and unscrupulous they certainly were , to have looked at such an innocent infant and violently hacked off her right hand. It was the culture of impunity at its highest.

As a nation, we must know what happened .We must know why men made in the likeness of God, became so base and devillish that they perpetuated horrors that shocked even the Devil. We must also hold somebody accountable for these satanic acts against innocent people, at least as a deterrent against future perpetuators.

Therefore whatever mistakes are alleged to have been  made when the treaty to set up this court was being signed, with regards to who  should or should not enjoy indemnity , these should not detract from the fact that we needed a court like this war crimes tribunal to bring justice to our country. Justice at times is harsh and hard to bear, but there will never be sustainable peace in Sierra Leone or Liberia if the alleged crimes committed during the war are not made the subject of justice that should deliver a strong message to one and all that the days of impunity are over.

It is very easy to condemn a body like the court  if one did not feel the horrors that became a painful way of life in Sierra Leone. He who feels it knows it. The blood of the countless thousands of innocent victims slaughtered unnecessarily during the war are  crying out from their graves for justice. We cannot afford to turn deaf ears to their cries.

Whatever the mistakes made about the Special court, let us stop behaving as if there was no need for justice in Sierra Leone. The demands for justice are compelling and should be met expeditiously. Cornelius Hamelberg of Leonenet is asking salient questions. Firstly, he asked that if the Special Court should not exist, who should try the likes of Charles Taylor ? He has also intimated that people are condemning the Special Court without suggesting an alternative . We cannot selfishly think only of our own hurts and forget about the excruciating pain that thousands are walking around with in Sierra Leone.

Indeed, whenever we want to open our mouths and make puerile statements that there was no need for a war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone, let us look at the face of the poor, innocent angel pictured above . She was an innocent baby that did no wrong to man or beast; yet she was set upon , her innocent right hand placed on a chopping board and hacked off , for no reason other than the fact that those who have maimed her for life wielded power and control that were abused with impunity.