Monday, April 7, 2014

14 Sierra Leonean soldiers on trial for treason (or something)

Fourteen Sierra Leone Armed Forces soldiers who were taken into custody last August are standing trial before a court-martial in Freetown on treason charges. [Later-released charge sheets reveal that treason was not charged; the actual charges sound in mutiny.] Judging by this report of the preliminary proceedings, some basic issues, beginning with Judge Advocate Otto O. During's eligibility to preside, have already emerged:
In what apparently sounded like music to the ears of the judge, [prosecutor] Gerald Soyie argued that Rule 20/a & f of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Sierra Leone Court Martial Procedure Rules of 2003 allowed for the Chief of Defence Staff “to take necessary steps” in appointing a Judge Advocate or he can appoint anyone he feels suitable without criteria for such.
“There is a strong presumption of regularity hardly rebuttable in connection with a convening order. Your warrant of instrument of order as judge advocate further confers on you your unlimited jurisdiction,” Soyie said.
He furthered that the constitutional provisions applied to judges of the high court, appeals court and supreme court and not a Court Martial.
State v. Jah, [1995] SLSC 3, applying the former version of s. 129 of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Sierra Leone Act 1961, held that decisions of a court-martial may not be questioned in any court of law. Since 2000, however, the Court of Appeal has had appellate jurisdiction over courts-martial. See Armed Forces of the Republic of Sierra Leone (Amendment) Act 2000; Forum of Conscience v. Sierra Leone, African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Comm. No. 223/98 (2000) (noting 2000 amendment, in case involving execution of 24 soldiers following non-appealable court-martial).

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