Special Court for Sierra Leone: Chronology

2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | Current

29 November 2004: In the CDF case, all three defendants briefly end their boycott of the proceedings, and for the first time since September 19 all three defendants are present. The Trial Chamber rules that Sam Hinga Norman was not served with the consolidated CDF indictment in accordance with the Special Court Rules, so changes to the indictment will be stayed until the Prosecution brings a motion to amend it. Prosecution witness testimony pertaining to altered details of the consolidated amendment is consequently suspended. The boycott by the defendants resumes after the morning session.

31 October 2004: Sierra Leone president Ahmet Tejan Kabbah says that Nigeria acted appropriately in giving former Liberian president Charles Taylor asylum because, if it had not, he would have disrupted the peace in Sierra Leone. Nevertheless, Kabbah says that Taylor will face justice in Sierra Leone at a later date.

4 October 2004: Revolutionary United Front (RUF) trial resumes.

8 September 2004: Civil Defence Forces (CDF) trial resumes.

6 August 2004: The Special Court's projected $85 million funding shortfall for 2005 will be made up by a UN subsidy grant, securing the court's funding through the end of 2005.

4 August 2004: Robin Vincent, Registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, announces he will resign in the fall, reportedly due to frustration over the court's uncertain finances.

2 August 2004: In the CDF trial, the Trial Chamber dismisses the prosecution's application to appeal against the Chamber's earlier decision denying it permission to amend the indictment against Norman, Fofana and Kondewa to include charges of sexual violence against women and crimes against humanity.

30 July 2004: The Special Court for Sierra Leone goes into recess until 8 September 2004.

16 July 2004: A delegation from the Special Court, led by Registrar Robin Vincent, returns from a two-day visit to Liberia. The purpose of the visit, which was organized in cooperation with civil society organizations in Liberia, is to inform Liberians and Sierra Leonean refugees about the work of the Special Court and how it relates to Liberia.

13 July 2004: The Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria, grants two Nigerians the right to use Nigeria's newspapers to present Special Court indictee Charles Taylor with court papers challenging Nigeria's decision to grant Taylor political asylum. The two plaintiffs, who had lived in Sierra Leone, had their hands amputated by RUF rebels allegedly supported by Taylor.

12 July 2004: In the RUF case, the Court orders the trial to continue despite Augustine Gbao's refusal to attend the proceedings. Gbao, one of three defendants in the case, says that he does not recognize the Special Court's authority. The Court rules that Gbao has explicitly waived his right to be present and will be represented by counsel during the course of the trial.

6 July 2004: In the RUF case, the Trial Chamber denies defendant Augustine Gbao's request to have his defense counsel withdrawn from the case and orders counsel to "conduct the case to the finality of the proceedings." In its decision, the Chamber notes that the Court's rules provide that once a trial has begun, a defendant's attorney may withdraw from the case only under the "most exceptional circumstances." The judges find that Gbao's refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Court is not sufficiently exceptional.

5 July 2004: In the RUF case, opening statements begin. Following the Prosecution's remarks, defendant Augustine Gbao requests to make his opening statement in place of his counsel. The Trial Chamber cuts his remarks short because they are limited to challenging the legitimacy of the Court instead of addressing the evidence, as required by the rules. In response, Gbao says he no longer recognizes the legitimacy of the Court and therefore no longer requires the services of his lawyers. The trial is adjourned to allow for the accused to confer with counsel.

1 July 2004: Two Nigerian businessmen go to court in Nigeria seeking to challenge Nigeria's decision to grant political asylum to Special Court indictee Charles Taylor and have him extradited to the Special Court. The two men say that they were mutilated by RUF forces while in Sierra Leone in the 1980s and that the rebels were acting on Taylor's orders.

20 June 2004: Terrence Terry, lead defense counsel for AFRC defendant Alex Tamba Brima and Special Court indictee Charles Taylor, dies of natural causes in his sleep.

15 June 2004: The CDF trial resumes with Sam Hinga Norman again challenging the Court's authority. He says that the charges against him are a "cynical manipulation of the judicial process." Norman is representing himself, but is assisted up by a team of international stand-by attorneys.

14 June 2004: In the CDF case, the Registrar informs the Trial Chamber that the defense team for Sam Hinga Norman is in place, following nearly two weeks of delays to sort out his legal representation.

10 June 2004: In the CDF case, Sam Hinga Norman rejects the Registrar's choice for his stand-by counsel, saying that he wants to rehire the defense team that he dismissed a few days earlier. The Court adjourns until June 14 to allow members of the defense team to consult. This is the third time in a week that the Court has adjourned the trial due to concerns relating to Norman's representation. Norman's original defense team informs the court in writing that they will not represent Norman in any capacity.

8 June 2004: In the CDF case, the Appeals Chamber rejects Sam Hinga Norman's request to defend himself without counsel. The Court says that the right to self-representation is qualified and not absolute. The trial is adjourned until 10 June while the Court's Registrar appoints stand-by counsel for Norman. Unhappy with the Court's decision, Norman says that he will refuse to attend the proceedings until he is allowed to defend himself.

3 June 2004: The CDF trial begins. After the Prosecutor's opening statement, the judge adjourns the proceedings when informed that Sam Hinga Norman wishes to represent himself for the duration of the trial. The matter is adjourned to 8 June.

31 May 2004: In the CDF case, the Appeals Chamber rejects a preliminary motion by Sam Hinga Norman arguing that that the recruitment of child soldiers was not a crime under international law at the time of the acts alleged in his indictment. The Judges rule, with one dissent, that the recruitment of child combatants was a crime under customary international law before November 1996, the start of the Special Court's temporal jurisdiction.

31 May 2004: The Appeals Chamber dismisses Charles Taylor's motion to quash his indictment and set aside his arrest warrant on the ground that he was head of state at the time they were issued. The judges rule that he is subject to the jurisdiction of the Special Court, in part because "sovereign equality of states does not prevent a Head of State from being prosecuted before an international tribunal or court." This reaffirms the Court's 13 March decision in the Kallon, Norman, and Kamara cases finding that the Special Court is an international criminal court and not a domestic court of Sierra Leone.

26 May 2004: Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola of Nigeria is named Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chamber, making him President of the Special Court. Judge Ayoola replaces Acting President Renate Winter.

17 May 2004: In the RUF and AFRC cases, all six defendants enter not guilty pleas to new charges of crimes against humanity [other inhumane acts] for acts of forced marriage. This is the first time that this violation will be prosecuted as a crime against humanity before an international criminal court.

11 May 2004: In the RUF and AFRC cases, the Court denies a Prosecution motion for concurrent hearings of witnesses common to both cases. The Prosecution argued that because the two cases shared witnesses relevant to the same allegations, concurrent hearings would be in the interests of a fair and expeditious trial. The Defense argued that the motion acted as an attempt to join the two trials, in contradiction to the Joinder Decision in which the Court ruled that there would be two separate trials, each involving three defendants. The Defense argued that the Joinder Decision was made in part to allow for conflicting defense strategies in each case and eliminate the possibility of mutual recrimination.

12 May 2004: The Special Court announces that the first trial is scheduled to start on June 3. The CDF case, the case against the three former leaders of the Civil Defense Forces, Moinina Fofana, Allieu Kondewa, and Sam Hinga Norman, is the first of three trials slated to be held at the Special Court.

11 May 2004: The Special Court approves a motion by the Prosecution allowing for the new charge of forced marriage to be levied against indictees. The Prosecution believes a forced marriage charge more accurately describes what happened to thousands of women and girls who were taken as "wives" by rebel groups. The defendants in the RUF case - Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon, and Augustine Gbao - and the defendants in the AFRC case - Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santigie Kanu - will all be charged with the newly approved offense. This is the first time forced marriage will be prosecuted as a crime against humanity.

5 May 2004: The Special Court welcomes renewed calls from West African countries for Charles Taylor to face prosecution before the Special Court. The Presidents of Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire have said that the former Liberian President, who is living in exile in Nigeria, should face justice for his alleged role in the atrocities in Sierra Leone.

5 May 2004: The Prosecution says it has 138 witnesses lined up to testify in the three trials that should start soon before the Special Court. Prosecutors are working on ways to protect the witnesses from potential reprisals for their testimony, including having them testify under pseudonyms or potentially having them testify from locations other than the Courthouse.

19 April 2004: Sam Hinga Norman's bank accounts have been ordered unfrozen by a Special Court Trial Chamber. The accounts had provisionally been frozen at the request of the Prosecution following Norman's arrest in March 2003. However, the Trial Chamber rules that prosecutors failed to produce evidence that the assets were illegally acquired or otherwise connected with criminal conduct.

24 March 2004: Sam Hinga Norman and Moinina Fofana file a motion seeking the removal of the Court's Acting President, Justice Renate Winter, for alleged bias. Norman and Fofana claim that Judge Winter is biased against them because of her close association with UNICEF. The Defendants cite a September 2002 report published by UNICEF and No Peace Without Justice entitled, "International Criminal Justice and Children" in which she was thanked for reviewing the article, which included pieces on the Special Court and children in the Sierra Leoneon civil war.

1 April 2004: The Special Court grants, in part, a motion by indictees Kanu, Kamara, and Brima claiming a defect in the form of their indictment. The Special Court orders the Prosecutor to amend the indictment and eliminate vague wording such as "included, but not limited to."

31 March 2004: The Special Court denies a motion submitted by indictees Kanu, Kamara, and Brima claiming an abuse of process by the Prosecution. Defendants argued that the charges against them-crimes against humanity and war crimes-violate the principle of nullum crimen sine lege because such crimes had not been fully implemented within domestic law at the time the alleged offenses occurred. The Court dismissed the motion, reiterating its earlier ruling in the Brima case that the Court is an international court and adding that, under international customary law, crimes against humanity and certain violations of international humanitarian law, such as those alleged in the case, give rise to international criminal responsibility.

31 March 2004: The Special Court says criminal penalties could be used against a Freetown Bank that decided to unfreeze indictee Sam Hinga Norman's account. The account was frozen following Norman's arrest in March 2003. The Special Court says that lifting the freeze is an obstruction of justice, which is punishable by up to 2 years in prison and/or a 2,000,000 Leones (US $800) fine under Sierra Leone domestic law.

16 March 2004: Judge Geoffrey Robertson's term as President of the Special Court expires following an amendment to the Court's Rules of Procedures and Evidence. The amendment to Rule 18, passed unanimously in a plenary meeting of the Special Court, states that the presiding President of the Special Court shall be elected to a non-renewable term of one year. Robertson had been Court President for longer than a year, so his term expired immediately. Vice President Renate Winter will act as President until the next Plenary meeting in May 2004. Robertson remains a judge of the Appeals Chamber.

16 March 2004: Lawyers for Special Court indictee Charles Taylor bring a motion before the Supreme Court of Liberia attempting to stop the Liberian Ministry of Justice from assisting investigators from the Special Court. Last week the Ministry of Justice asked a Liberian court to issue search warrants for Taylor's homes in Monrovia to Special Court officials. Taylor asserts that these search warrants are illegal because the Special Court has no jurisdiction in Liberia.

16 March 2004: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appeals to the UN General Assembly to pay for the shortfall in the Special Court's budget for the second half of 2004 and all of 2005. He is asking for the UN to come up with $40 million to fill the budget gap.

13 March 2004: The Appeals Chamber rules that Special Court President Geoffrey Robertson will remain on the Appeals Chamber but that he is excluded from hearing any motions or cases involving alleged RUF members Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon, and Augustine Gbao. The ruling comes in response to a defense motion by Sesay claiming that Robertson exhibited bias against the RUF in a book he wrote before joining the court. Kallon and Gbao joined the motion before the Appeals Chamber reached its decision.

13 March 2004: The Appeals Chamber dismisses the motion by Morris Kallon and Brima Karama challenging the jurisdiction of the Special Court on amnesty grounds. The Special Court rules that the amnesty granted by the Lomé Peace Accord only applies to domestic prosecutions and does not bar the prosecution of international crimes before an international tribunal.

13 March 2004: The Appeals Chamber dismisses the motion by Sam Hinga Norman, Morris Kallon, and Brima Karama challenging the jurisdiction of the Special Court on constitutional grounds. The Special Court reasons that the Court derives its existence not from the Constitution of Sierra Leone, but from United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1315 and the Agreement between the United Nations and Sierra Leone establishing the Court. As such, the Court operates in the sphere of international law and is not subject to the Constitution of Sierra Leone.

13 March 2004: The Appeals Chamber dismisses the motion by Sam Hinga Norman challenging the jurisdiction of the Special Court on the grounds that the Court lacks judicial independence. Norman's motion argued that the funding of the Special Court by volunteer donors made it susceptible to political pressures.

10 March 2004: The Special Court officially opens its new courthouse. The complex includes a detention facility and offices for up to 320 staff.

9 March 2004: A three-judge panel of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court convenes a hearing on defendant Issa Hassan Sesay's motion to have Special Court President Geoffrey Robertson disqualified from the court. The panel asks President Robertson to indicate in writing whether or not he will withdraw.

5 March 2004: Special Court investigators, with the assistance of international police officers from the United Nations Mission in Liberia, search properties of Special Court indictee Charles Taylor in Liberia. The searches were authorized by a warrant granted to the Special Court at the request of the Liberian Ministry of Justice.

27 February 2004: Counsel for Issa Hassan Sesay files a motion to have Special Court President Geoffrey Robertson removed from the Appeals Chamber for alleged bias based upon comments in Robertson's book Crimes Against Humanity - The Struggle for Global Justice.

18 February: Officials at the Special Court announce that the Court will open its doors on March 10. The Court is expected to have special hearings in early March for the prosecution and defense teams to present status reports on their pre-trial preparations and for the judges to set the trial dates.

11 February: Chief Prosecutor David Crane files a request to amend the indictments against nine indictees in the custody of the Special Court. If granted, Sam Hinga Norman, Alieu Kondewa and Moinina Fofana would have four charges added and the AFRC/ RUF indictees would have one additional charge. The charges include committing or ordering various acts of sexual violence against women as crimes against humanity.

4 February: In the Norman case, the restriction placed on Sam Hinga Norman's communications is lifted. He is again able to freely make and receive phone calls and to be visited by family and friends.

28 January: Charles Taylor's attorney is filing a motion against Special Court President Geoffrey Robertson, asking that he recuse himself from the judicial panel that is deciding on the motion challenging Taylor's indictment. Taylor claims Robertson is biased against him as evidenced in Robertson's book, Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice, in which he calls Taylor "a vicious warlord."

27 January: The Sierra Leonean Parliament announces that Special Court fugitive Johnny Paul Koroma will soon lose his seat in Parliament due to his prolonged absence. While the Special Court's Chief Investigator said in June 2003 that he had credible evidence Koroma was dead, this has not yet been confirmed. Koroma is still officially listed as a fugitive from the Special Court.

27 January: Following telephone conversations with indictee Sam Hinga Norman, Kamajor District Administrator in the Kenema district, Alfred Koroma, is arrested. The Prosecutor claims that in a call between the two men earlier this month Norman and Koroma planned to incite violence in the country. This call led to the communication restrictions placed on Norman. While some sources claim the Special Court gave the orders to arrest Koroma, the Court denies this, pointing out that they only have the power to arrest persons who have committed crimes that bear the greatest responsibility during the civil war.

26 January: In the Norman case, Sam Hinga Norman issues a press release denying that he was trying to incite violence among supporters and files a motion challenging the orders to restrict his communications to his legal counsel. He claims that the Special Court accused him without giving him a chance to defend himself or explain his conversation. The conversation was in Mende, and Norman claims that the translation, made by an employee of the Special Court, was inaccurate. He says that he has urged his supporters to remain peaceful and support the rule of law.

29 January 2004: The Trial Chambers of the Special Court will try nine defendants in three separate trials. The cases are divided according to which faction the defendants belonged to. The Court granted the Prosecutor's motion for alleged CDF members Sam Hinga Norman, Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa to be tried together. The Court denied the Prosecutor's second motion for joinder of six defendants, but ruled that, in the interest of justice and to ensure a fair and expeditious trial, alleged RUF members Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao be tried as one group, and alleged AFRC members Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu be tried separately.

21 January 2004: The Registrar has restricted Sam Hinga Norman's communication with anyone but his legal counsel for 14 days. The restriction comes after a telephone intercept recorded Norman having a conversation that indicated he may be involved in coordinating activities calculated to cause civil unrest in the country.