Military spokesman and deputy chief of staff of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), Brigadier Alfred Nelson Williams, has disclosed about the reintroduction of court martial for military officers.
Brigadier Williams was speaking to the press yesterday at the Defence ministry where he said the reintroduction of the court martial into the RSLAF legal system would be one that would help improve the professional and credible status the army aimed at, as it would also help and maintain in time of peace as well as war the operational efficiency of the RSLAF.
He said, “the court will be composed of the prosecuting authority who will be a legal officer that determines whether to prosecute or not and the convening officer who can be the chief of defense staff or any formation commander. The convening officer will be responsible for the administration of the court, appoints members and arranges for witnesses to be brought before the court.”
The judge advocate, he continued, would conduct trial and that he would be the tribunal of law. His duty would be to give rulings and directions on all questions of the law including procedure and practice.
“A court martial is an ad hoc court. It comes into being after court members convene, pursuant to the order of the convening officer and is dissolved by the judge advocate after its functions have been carried out. Court members consists of a president who is usually not below the rank of a captain and a minimum of two and maximum of four other officer members who have at least three years’ experience of commissioned service”, he said.
Explaining further the trial procedure he said, “the dispensation of military justice is a whole process that starts as early as the time the crime is being committed. When an accused has been reported to the commanding officer by way of a charge, the CO’s first duty is to investigate all alleged offences after which he may wish to deal with the case summarily and award the necessary punishments within his jurisdiction”.
And in the circumstance wherein the offence alleged is a civil one or does not fall within the commanding officers’ jurisdiction, he digressed, it might be forwarded to higher authorities and or returned back for summary dealings.
The court martial makes provision for an appeal and it may hear any offence ranging from minor cases of absenting from duty to crimes against the state “but it will necessarily mean to hear cases of treason or capital offences.”
Already, the military spokesman also disclosed, five cases among the 16 case files were potential court martial cases that would start on Wednesday 9 and Monday 14 January 2008 for the pre- trial or status conference proceedings.