All defendants boycott trials at special court

07 February 2005 by KELVIN LEWIS

The youthful interim leader of the former Rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) movement, the self-styled General Issa Sesay, has ordered his former battle group commander Morris Kallon to join him and all the other defendants in the ongoing war crimes trials in Sierra Leone to boycott court hearings.

At the start of court sessions after the Christmas and New Year break, presiding trial judge Benjamin Mutanga Itoe had barely finished urging counsel on both sides to speed up the trial when Issa Sesay indicated he wanted to make a statement. Allowed three minutes to make his intervention, Issa Sesay cited the provisions of the Lomé Peace Accord, which granted amnesty to all combatants, and claimed that the court was acting unfairly to him by putting him on trial. The judges interpreted this as another attempt by the accused to make a political statement and ordered him to stop. Sesay refused, and the judges requested his removal from the courtroom. As he was being led out, Sesay called on his former battlefield commander Morris Kallon to follow him and the two stormed out together. This latest twist brings the Special Court to a point where all the six defendants have stopped attending the trials, leaving the judges and lawyers to carry on their business without them.

RUF trial first, then the CDF

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