At his final press conference held at SLENA building yesterday the outgoing prosecutor of the Special Court Stephen Rapp has disclosed that one of his disappointments was the death of Chief Sam Hinga Norman.
Chief Norman was the National Coordinator of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) and was indicted by the Special Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious international humanitarian law during the ten years war in the country.
Chief Norman was flown to Senegal for a hip operation through an electric surgery but he died before he was flown back to the country to continue with his trial.
Mr Rapp who disclosed that Chief Norman left just as he arrived said “I was devastated when I heard the news of his death and an investigations was done and it was determined that it was cardiac arrest and it was unrelated to the surgery it was unrelated to the treatment that he received …”
The outgoing prosecutor added that “it was important that given the significance and the controversy of that case that a verdict could be rendered to him at the end of the trial but that did not happen, justice was denied and that was one of the disappointments I had.”
He said that he “very much appreciates the good will of people and understanding but it was a great disappointment for me and a tragedy for the people of Sierra Leone as justice was denied in that case as the verdict of guilt or innocence would have followed the trial.”
Mr Rapp explained further that justice had already been done and it was now in the hands of the judges to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused but under the rules of the court and uniform international law once the individual dies there can’t be a judgment.
Another disappointment he said he had was that he could not finish the work of the court to achieve justice in the cases “where we could achieve them.”
Speaking about his happy moments during his three years in the court, Prosecutor Rapp said his happy moment is “when you go to court and succeed and you see justice done you are happy. It is more a matter of satisfaction but it is never a moment of complete joy when other human beings are charged, convicted and sent to prison and jailed but the achievement of justice remembering what happened to the victims – this calls for normal satisfaction which made me the happiest since my time in Sierra Leone.
“When I feel embraced by the people of Sierra Leone, accepted by them is wonderful and those occasions are really the happiest being a lawyer, going to court pounding on the table, citing the law that is a challenging work, but seeing the people that are affected with a smile on their faces … is really the happiest time I have had here and that is one of the reason that I look forward to coming back.”
The prosecutor who has been appointed as Ambassador at Large For War Crimes in America said that he will continue to use his office to continue the work of the Court.
He revealed that “the most important thing in the (new) office is working with each of the special or international tribunal or court that has been established – I have a person in my office which is specifically responsible for the Sierra Leone court and the United States is part of the management committee in New York and I will be involved in the proceedings.”
Prosecutor Rapp said that he was pleased with the trial process of Charles Taylor which is presently going on in The Hague and the accused is testifying in his defence. The prosecutor stressed that most of the testimony of Taylor is quite different from what they have put before the judges but that the important side is that they will have time to test the credibility of the witness through cross examination.
He stressed that “when our turn comes to ask questions we will confront Charles Taylor with the full weight of our case.”
About his role during his three years in office the prosecutor said that he has overseen
the prosecution of all the trials before the court where they secured convictions of the leaders of the AFRC, CDF and at trial level – because of this he is proud to have been part of the judicial proceedings that resulted in the first convictions in the history for the recruitment and use of child soldiers as a war crime, the first convictions for attacks on peace-keepers as a violation of international humanitarian law.
Stephen Rapp was nominated by President Obama in July to serve as United States Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues.
By Betty Milton