Court name
Special Court for Sierra Leone
Case number
SCSL 14 of 2004

Prosecutor v Sam Hinga Norman - Separate Opinion of Justice Gelaga King (SCSL 14 of 2004) [2004] SCSL 118 (01 June 2004);

Law report citations
Media neutral citation
[2004] SCSL 118

SPECIAL COURT FOR SIERRA LEONE
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THE TRIAL CHAMBER

Before:
Judge Bankole Thompson, Presiding Judge
Judge Benjamin Mutanga Itoe
Judge Pierre Boutet
Registrar:
Robin Vincent
Date:
1 June 2004
PROSECUTOR
Against
Alex Tamba Brima
Brima Bazzy Kamara
Santigie Borbor Kanu
(Case No.SCSL-04-16-PT)

DECISION ON PROSECUTION APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AN INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL AGAINST DECISION ON MOTION FOR CONCURRENT HEARING OF EVIDENCE COMMON TO CASES SCSL-2004-15-PT AND SCSL-2004-16-PT

Office of the Prosecutor:
 
Defence Counsel for Alex Tamba Brima:
Luc Côté
Robert Petit
 
Terence Terry
   
Defence Counsel for Brima Bazzy Kamara:
Ken Fleming
   
Defence Counsel for Santigie Borbor Kanu:
Geert-Jan Alexander Knoops

THE TRIAL CHAMBER (“Trial Chamber”) of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (“Special Court”), composed of Judge Bankole Thompson, Presiding Judge, Judge Benjamin Mutanga Itoe and Judge Pierre Boutet;
NOTING the Decision on the Prosecution Motion for Concurrent Hearing of Evidence Common to Cases SCSL-2004-15-PT and SCSL-2004-16-PT (“Decision”) of 11 May 2004;

SEIZED of the Application for Leave to File an Interlocutory Appeal against the Decision on the “Prosecution’s Motion for Concurrent Hearing of Evidence Common to Cases SCSL-2004-15-PT and SCSL-2004-16-PT (“Application”) filed by the Office of the Prosecutor (“Prosecution”) on 14 May 2004;

RECALLING the Court’s Decision and Order on Prosecution Motions for Joinder dated 27 January 2004 in respect of Accused Issa Hassan Sesay, Alex Tamba Brima, Morris Kallon, Augustine Gbao, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu (“Joinder Decisions”) in which it ordered the joint trial of Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao of the RUF (“RUF Case”) and a separate joint trial of Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu of the AFRC (“AFRC Case”);

NOTING the Order for Expedited Filing of 17 May 2004;
NOTING the Response to the Application filed by Defence Counsel for Alex Tamba Brima on 24 May 2004 (“Brima Response”);

NOTING the Response to the Application filed by Defence Counsel for Santigie Borbor Kanu on 20 May 2004 (“Kanu Response”);

NOTING that no Response to the Application was filed by the Defence Counsel for Brima Bazzy Kamara;

NOTING the Consolidated Reply to the responses filed by the Prosecution on 24 May 2004 (“Consolidated Reply”);

NOTING THE SUBMISSIONS OF THE PARTIES:

A. The Prosecution Motion

  1. Pursuant to Rule 73(B) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (“Rules”), the Prosecution seeks leave to appeal against the Decision of this Chamber denying the Prosecution’s Motion for Concurrent Hearing of Evidence in the Cases RUF and AFRC on the basis of exceptional circumstances and irreparable prejudice. The Prosecution states that if granted leave, it will argue that the Decision contains errors and misconceptions in law by the Trial Chamber.[1]
  2. On the issue of exceptional circumstances, the Prosecution argues that pursuant to the Decision over one hundred and fifty witnesses will have now to testify twice in court, in separate trials, to exactly the same facts, and that this will happen in a relatively short period of time and before a court which is located in the country where the violations that such witnesses will be called to give testimony about took place. The Prosecution further contends that all these witnesses, including women and children subjected to sexual abuses and mutilations, will hence re-live their trauma and undergo additional cross-examinations of their experiences.[2]
  3. In addition, the Prosecution submits that the Decision will cause irreparable prejudice to its case. As a result of the hardships and risks involved in testifying before the court, the Prosecution contends that some witnesses will then refuse to appear for the second trial for the purposes of testifying. This, the Prosecution concludes, will cause loss of evidence that will not only entail great detriment to the ascertainment of the truth and the fairness of the judicial process, but, indeed, will also cause irreparable prejudice to the Prosecution’s case.[3]

B. The Defence Responses

  1. In their responses, each of the Defence Counsel submits that the Application should be rejected on the grounds that it does not meet the test provided for in Rule 73(B) of the Rules, namely, exceptional circumstances and irreparable prejudice to the Prosecution’s case.

The Brima Response

  1. In its Response, the Defence submits that the Motion should be denied or dismissed on the grounds that the reasons in support are “not only unmeritorious but also totally ill-founded.”[4]
  2. The Defence further submits that despite its agreement with the Prosecution on the applicable legal standard, it does not agree that the several matters alluded to at page 4 paragraphs 13-14 of the Prosecution’s Motion constitute “exceptional circumstances.”[5]
  3. The Defence finally contends that “the totality of the matters relied upon by the Prosecution throughout page 4 of their application for leave to appeal in its attempt to justify the two vital elements of exceptional circumstances and irreparable damage are at best untenable on their two reading and purport.”[6]

The Kanu Response

  1. The Defence herein first submits that there is no error of law or fact in the Trial Chamber’s Decision warranting leave to appeal.[7]
  2. The Defence also argues that the reasoning of the Trial Chamber in its previous Decision rejecting the Prosecution’s Motion for leave to appeal against the Chamber’s Joinder Decision indirectly applies here.[8]
  3. The Defence further submits that the Prosecution has failed to establish that the outcome of the impugned Decision of the Trial Chamber creates an exceptional circumstance and irreparable damage to the Prosecution,[9] and that with respect to the argument as to loss of evidence this pertains to future expectations and does not relate to any fact as was found by the Trial Chamber.[10]

C. The Consolidated Reply

  1. In its Reply, the Prosecution rebuts the Defence assertions that the Application does not satisfy the requirement of exceptional circumstances and irreparable prejudice of Rule 73(B) of the Rules.
  2. In particular, the Prosecution reasserts that the exceptional circumstances created by the Chamber’s decision, is the hearing of a large corpus of witnesses twice, and that this will prolong the trials and unnecessarily duplicate the risks and pain suffered by the witnesses, and that this result will also adversely affect the right of the Accused to a fair trial, as the expeditious nature of the proceedings against him are part of his right.[11]
  3. The Prosecution further reasserts that the Trial Chamber erred in law when it failed to consider principles extrinsic to the rights of the Accused, such as judicial economy, and it mistakenly interpreted the Motion as requiring the sacrifice of the rights of the Accused in favour of economic or political circumstances.[12]
  4. In general, the Prosecution’s Consolidated Reply in several respects, reinforces generally and specifically its earlier arguments and submissions.

HAVING DELIBERATED THE CHAMBER DECIDES AS FOLLOWS:

Introduction

  1. This Motion once more confronts the Court with the vexed question of one of the criminal law’s recurring themes, both nationally and internationally, namely, interlocutory appeals.

Order Requested

  1. In more specific terms, as anticipated in the section above dedicated to the Prosecution submissions, the present Motion seeks leave of this Trial Chamber to appeal against its Decision on the Prosecution Motion for Concurrent Hearing of Evidence Common to Cases SCSL-2004-15-PT and SCSL-2004-16-PT of 11 May 2004.

Legal Basis For the Motion

  1. The Prosecution’s Motion is filed pursuant to Rule 73(B) of the Rules. Rule 73(B) is in these terms:

“Decisions rendered on such motions are without interlocutory appeal. However, in exceptional circumstances and to avoid irreparable prejudice to a party, the Trial Chamber may give leave to appeal. Such leave should be sought within 3 days of the decision and shall not operate as a stay of proceedings unless the Trial Chamber so orders.”

Applicable Jurisprudence

  1. In its twin seminal Decisions on the subject of interlocutory appeals in the RUF Case and in the AFRC Case[13] where the Prosecution sought leave of the Trial Chamber to appeal interlocutorily against its Joinder Decisions in respect of the aforementioned cases, this Chamber took the opportunity to articulate the principles governing applications of this nature.
  2. Emphasising that Rule 73(B) of the Rules generally does not confer a right of interlocutory appeal but only grants leave to appeal in exceptional cases, the Chamber opined as follows:

“As a general rule, interlocutory decisions are not appealable and consistent with a clear and unambiguous legislative intent, this rule involves a high threshold that must be met before this Chamber can exercise its discretion to grant leave to appeal. The two limbs of the test are clearly conjunctive, not disjunctive; in other words, they must both be satisfied.”

Explaining the rationale behind this Rule, the Court had this to say:

“This interpretation is unavoidable, given the fact that the second limb of Rule 73(B) was added by way of an amendment adopted at the August 2003 Plenary. This is underscored by the fact that prior to that amendment no possibility of an interlocutory appeal existed and the amendment was carefully couched in such terms so as only to allow appeals to proceed in very limited and exceptional situations. In effect, it is a restrictive provision.”

In essence, the purport of our Decisions of 13 February 2004 can be put this way: that the overriding legal consideration in respect of an application for leave to file an interlocutory appeal is that the applicant’s case must reach a level of exceptional circumstances and irreparable prejudice. Nothing short of that will suffice having regard to the restrictive nature of Rule 73(B) and the rationale that criminal trials must not be heavily encumbered and consequently unduly delayed by interlocutory appeals.

  1. As we noted in those Decisions, our test for granting leave to file interlocutory appeals is more restrictive in comparison with that applied by International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in the interest of expeditiousness and the peculiar circumstances of this Court’s limited mandate. Based on the foregoing restatement of the applicable principles of law, we now proceed to address the key question for determination that is, whether the Prosecution’s case for leave to file an interlocutory appeal reaches the level of exceptional circumstances and irreparable prejudice. This goes to the merit of the application.

Evaluation of Application’s Merit

  1. It is significant to note that the Prosecution’s case in support of the “exceptional circumstances” prong of the test is predicated upon two averments or assumptions, namely, (i) that over one hundred and fifty witnesses will have to testify twice in two separate trials in a relatively short duration to the same facts, and (ii) that of the witnesses re-living trauma during cross-examination. The Chamber fails to see how the fact that one hundred and fifty witnesses will have to testify in two separate trials in a relatively short period of time to the exact same facts which constitute the most atrocious violations of international criminal law to which they were victims or witnesses, as alleged by the Prosecution, before a court located in the country where the violations allegedly took place coupled with, as the Prosecution submits, the likelihood of re-traumatization do constitute “exceptional circumstances” for the purposes of Rule 73(B) of the Rules especially in the light of the Chamber’s analysis at paragraphs 34-39 of the Decision in question. In what lies the exceptionality, considering the entitlement in law of each accused to a separate trial barring a joinder decision? These contingencies may create some inconveniences and hardships but do not, singly or cumulatively, amount to “exceptional circumstances” in the context of Rule 73(B) of the Rules, taking into account the Orders for witnesses’ protective measures[14] and the expert services of the Victims and Witnesses Unit of the Court including the psychological counselling component of such services. The claim of “exceptional circumstances” by the Prosecution is legally unsustainable, and therefore fails.
  2. Consistent with our Decision of 13 February 2004 on the issue of leave to file an interlocutory appeal, we do not think it necessary or appropriate to examine the merits of the Prosecution’s submissions on “irreparable prejudice”, having found that there has not been a showing of “exceptional circumstances” especially since the test is conjunctive and not disjunctive.

DISPOSITION

  1. For the foregoing reasons and considerations, the Trial Chamber hereby denies the Application.
Done at Freetown this 1st day of June 2004
Judge Bankole Thompson
Judge Benjamin Mutanga Itoe
Judge Pierre Boutet
Presiding Judge,
Trial Chamber
   
[Seal of the Special Court for Sierra Leone]


[1] Application, paras 3-10.
[2] Id., paras 12-14.
[3] Id., paras 15-17. In addition, the Prosecution reaffirms its arguments as stated in its Application for Leave to File an Interlocutory Appeal against the Trial Chamber’s Decision of 27 January 2004, 3 February 2004.
[4] Interlocutory Part of Response.
[5] Id. Part II.
[6] Id. Part II.
[7] Kanu Response para. 3.
[8] Id. para. 4.
[9] Id. para. 7.
[10] Id. para. 8.
[11] Consolidated Reply, para. 15.
[12] Id. para. 8.
[13] Decision on Prosecutor’s Application for Leave to File and Interlocutory Appeal against the Decision on the Prosecution Motions for Joinder,13 February 2004 (“Decisions of 13 February 2004”);
[14] Prosecutor v. Alex Tamba Brima, SCSL-2003-06-PT, Decision on the Prosecutor’s Motion for Immediate Protective Measures for Witnesses and Victims and for Non-Public Disclosure, 23 May 2003; Prosecutor v. Brima Bazzy Kamara, SCSL-2003-10-PT, Decision on the Prosecutor’s Motion for Immediate Protective Measures for Witnesses and Victims and for Non-Public Disclosure, 23 October 2003; Prosecutor v. Santigie Borbor Kanu, SCSL-2003-12-PT, Decision on the Prosecution Motion for Immediate Protective Measures for Witnesses and Victims, 24 November 2003.