Chief Norman: would he have been found guilty, if alive?

10 September 2007 by Tim Kelsall

Trial Chamber One at the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued its judgment in the controversial Civil Defense Forces (CDF) case on August 2. High Priest Allieu Kondewa and Director of War Moinina Fofana were acquitted of crimes against humanity and found guilty of war crimes. But the meaning of this trial really centered on its primary defendant: Chief Samuel Hinga Norman, former National Coordinator of the CDF, who died six months ago in the midst of judicial deliberations.

The CDF trial heard from 119 witnesses and scrutinized 230 documentary exhibits over 162 trial days spread over two and a half years. It has been punctuated by moments of high drama and political controversy throughout. The CDF was a popular militia with its roots in local hunting societies - the largest being the Kamajors of the Mende ethnicity - which fought on the side of the democratic government in the country's eleven-year civil war. Norman, a former Deputy Minister of Defense and Minister of the Interior at the time of his arrest, was a hugely popular figure in some Sierra Leonean circles, regarded as a hero and savior of the nation. The prosecution, however, portrayed him as an ambitious, ruthless, and vengeful man, calling witnesses who made sensational allegations including that Norman ordered his subordinates to loot and burn Sierra Leonean villages, that he prepared death lists of alleged rebel collaborators, that he ordered Kamajors to chop off the left hands of rebels, and even that he participated in human sacrifices in order to procure a magical garment and walking stick made from body parts and human skin.

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