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Sierra Leone Special Court President To Recuse Himself In RUF Cases - 2004-03-15

In Sierra Leone, the president of the UN-backed war crimes tribunal will not be hearing cases involving the rebel RUF, the Revolutionary United Front.

Attorneys representing RUF defendants accused Geoffrey Robertson of bias because of his book, “Crimes Against Humanity, the Struggle For Global Justice.” In the book, he sharply criticizes the rebel group.

Allison Cooper is the spokeswoman for the special court. From Freetown, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the action taken regarding Justice Robertson. She says he was not a trial judge but rather dealt with any appeals that might be filed. Since there are three cases pending involving RUF defendants, he would have to recuse himself in the event any of those cases result in convictions and those convictions are appealed.

Justice Robertson is quoted by Reuters as saying, “I am very glad and happy that the court has made a decision for men to remain as a permanent judge in the court. I also welcome the decision of the court for me not to sit in any of the trials of indictees of the RUF. But if the court finds it necessary for me to be a member of any of the trials, I am willing to do so.”

On other matters, court spokeswoman Allison Cooper says efforts continue to bring former Liberian president Charles Taylor before the court. Mr. Taylor remains in exile in Nigeria. She also says the court’s funding is secure and the court is operating on schedule.

Click above links to download or listen to interview with Allison Cooper.