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Autopsy and Inquest Set for Sierra Leone Kamajor Leader Chief Sam Hinga Norman


The Special Court for Sierra Leone has promised there will be an autopsy soon to determine the cause of death of Kamajor militia leader Sam Hinga Norman. Norman died while in Senegal for routine medical treatment. He had been on trial for war crimes charges and crimes against humanity.

Peter Andersen is the spokesman for the special court. From Freetown, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the pending autopsy, which may be done on Wednesday.

“The registrar, even on Thursday, the day that Chief Norman died, ordered an autopsy, an inquest, in fact, to take place. And we’re going to do that as soon as possible, as soon as logistically possible, because it means that some of the pathologists and doctors have to be taken to Dakar,” he says.

Andersen adds, “The immediate cause of death, as we said, was that Chief Norman collapsed and suffered heart failure. Now what caused him to collapse and what caused the heart failure is what we have to find out. So, it’s better to wait until the experts have looked, rather than to speculate. And so, after the autopsy has been performed, after the inquest, then we’ll know. And when we know, the family will know as well.”

Asked what happens next, since a verdict was pending in Norman’s trial, the special court spokesman says, “What is probably going to happen is that the judges are going to review that and they would have the discretion to remove it so that there would never be a verdict now. That’s what the prosecutor, in fact, has suggested would happen. There’s not a specific rule for taking care of that, but in other tribunals that’s been done under general rule, which gives the judges the powers to do things in cases like this.”

Because Chief Norman had been the head of the Kamajors, his trial was considered somewhat sensitive. Andersen says, “Many people…thought that Chief Norman was a hero during the war. So that trial probably has been watched with greater interest here in Sierra Leone than any other of the trials so far. I think there are a lot of people who are rather emotional about this and that’s only to be expected.”

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