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Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone

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2011-02: Independent Counsel v. Bangura, Kargbo, Kanu and Kamara

On 31 January 2011, the Office of the Prosecutor filed a motion before Trial Chamber II alleging that a former Prosecution witness had been contacted and urged to recant testimony he had given in the AFRC trial.

The Prosecution alleged that SCSL convicts Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu, both serving sentences on SCSL convictions at Mpanga Prison in Rwanda, had contacted two of their former colleagues in Freetown, Hassan Papa Bangura (aka: “Bomblast”) and Samuel Kargbo (aka: “Sammy Ragga) and asked them to induce Prosecution witnesses to recant their testimony with the view of having their convictions overturned or their sentences reduced.

On 18 March 2011, the Trial Chamber instructed the Registrar to appoint an Independent Investigator to look into the allegations.

On 11 May 2011 the Independent Investigator submitted his confidential report to the Trial Chamber, and on 24 May 2011 the Chamber issued an order in lieu of an indictment charging each of the four accused with (Count 1) offering a bribe to a former Prosecution witness to recant testimony given before the Court, and (Count 2) of otherwise attempting to induce a former Prosecution witness to recant testimony given before the Court. Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara was also charged with (Count 3) knowingly disclosing the name of a protected witness in violation of an order for protection.

Justice Teresa Doherty was designated as Single Judge to preside over the trial.

At their initial appearance in Freetown on 15 July 2011, Bangura, Kamara and Kanu pleaded not guilty to all counts. Kargbo pleaded guilty to the two counts against him, and offered to testify for the Prosecution. Justice Doherty convicted him and deferred sentencing until the end of the trial.

The trial opened in Freetown on 19 June 2012, with defendants Kamara and Kanu participating from Kigali, Rwanda via video-link. The first session was largely devoted to legal and technical issues, and so the Prosecution opening statement was deferred until 20 June. The first witness was called on 21 June.

The Prosecution closed its case on 4 July 2012 after calling four witnesses, including co-accused Samuel Kargbo.

On 18 July 2012, Bangura, Kanu and Kargbo all filed motions for judgement of acquittal, pursuant to Rule 98 which states that “If after the close of the case for the prosecution, there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction on one or more counts of the indictment, the Trial Chamber shall enter a judgement of acquittal on those counts.” The Prosecution filed a response in opposition on 30 July. On 10 August 2012 Justice Doherty dismissed all three motions.

The Defence case opened on 21 August 2012. Bangura, Kamara and Kanu all testified in their own defence, and Kamara called one additional witness. The Defence rested on 6 September 2012.

On 25 September 2012, Kanu and Bangura were each convicted on the two counts of offering a bribe to a witness and of otherwise attempting to induce a witness to recant testimony given before the court. Kamara was convicted of trying to induce a witness to change his testimony, and of knowingly disclosing the identity of a protected witness.

On 11 October 2012 Justice Doherty sentenced Kamara and Kanu to terms of 18 months in prison in addition to the SCSL sentences they were already serving, but gave them credit for two weeks they had spent in Kigali, for a total of one year and 50 weeks. Bangura received a sentence of 18 months in prison, but was given credit for time on remand and also credit for past breaches of his human rights by the national system, resulting in an effective sentence of twelve months imprisonment. Kargbo, in view of his guilty plea, his cooperation with the Independent Counsel, and his personal circumstances, was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 18-months, provided he maintained good behaviour for the next two years.

Bangura, Kamara and Kanu all announced their intention to appeal their convictions and sentences. Kargbo also lodged an appeal, asking the Appeals Chamber to order Justice Doherty and the Special Court’s Witness and Victims Section to order protective measures for Kargbo.

On 13 March 2013 the Appeals Chamber delivered its judgement. Kargbo’s appeal for protective measures was dismissed as being neither an appeal against conviction nor sentence and therefore incompetent.. Bangura, the Judges noted, failed to file an appeal despite having been granted additional time to do so. Appeals by Kamara and Kanu were dismissed for failing to follow the Practice Direction on Filing Appeals, and for failure to set out the grounds of appeal “clearly, logically and exhaustively.”

Hassan Papa Bangura, Kargbo, Kanu and Kamara Documents