Special Court Accuses Indicted Militia Chief

Integrated Regional Information Networks
January 22, 2004

The United Nations backed Special Court for war crimes in Sierra Leone has blocked all communications and visits to former militia leader, Chief Sam Hinga Norman, accusing him of making "statements inciting his supporters to public unrest, using communications facilities provided by the detention facility." Until his arrest in March 2003, Hinga Norman was the Minister of Internal Affairs, and the coordinator of the local militia known as the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), which fought against the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during the country's 10-year civil war. The decision to block all communications was taken after Norman, had a telephone conversation with an unidentified person on Monday, which was monitored by the prison authorities, in accordance with their regulations. Based on the transcript of the telephone conversation, the Special Court Chief Prosecutor David Crane immediately put in an "urgent request ... to prohibit any contact between Hinga Norman and any other person", claiming that the telephone conversation "demonstrates that Hinga Norman may be prepared to call various factions to arms." Norman has retained a strong following amongst the CDF, which is made up of local hunter militias, drawn from different ethnic groups. Norman's arrest in March shocked many Sierra Leoneans. Some still argue that his treatment was "unjust" and that the government is "ungrateful" because Norman fought on the side of the people and on behalf of the government, of which he was then the deputy defense minister. They say he should not be charged alongside the RUF rebels who were the real perpetrators of the war.

Since Norman's arrest, there have been various claims that militia commanders still loyal to him want to spring him from jail, or create civil unrest to enable his release. It is in consideration of this perceived threat that the Special Court Registrar has now ordered that "all contact (visits and telephone calls) between Hinga Norman and any outsider, including members of his family is prohibited" for the next 14 days. However, Norman's lawyers are not affected by this order. The Special Court was set up by agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations to "try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law" during Sierra Leone's ten-year civil war. Thirteen people have been indicted, including the former Liberian Head of State Charles Taylor. Two of the indictees have since died, and one - Johnny Paul Koroma is still on the run, leaving nine, including Hinga Norman, who is being held in custody in the court's multi- million dollar detention facility in the centre of the capital Freetown. Norman faces eight counts of crimes against humanity, violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.

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