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.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

article
21 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Being the ICC's Chief Prosecutor is a delicate and politically sensitivejob.ForLuisMorenoOcampo it has been "the best job in the world." Fatou Bensouda will be taking over his office in June. She inhe

article
07 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

December 7, 2011 Ivory Coast is the latest playgroundoftheInternationalCriminal Court. This week the courtroom in The Hague became its theatre of justice. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo proudly p

article
07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

article
07 December 2011 by Lindy Janssen

Brazil is booming. The economy is expanding and the country is getting ready to host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. But the Latin American giant has not even begun dealing wi

article
07 December 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

The primary purpose of the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, as proclaimed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its appeal judgement in July, should have been to hear testimonies of two "key" witnesses who proved unwilling to testify in the original trial in 2007. Almost four months into the retrial which started in mid-August, its stated aim has not yet been achieved.