Further to the Order by Justice Browne-Marke that the ACC’s witnesses’ ordered protection is subject to review, there is a growing school of thought that it is important for Haja Afsatu Kabba’s witnesses to be asked to testify openly against her in the full glare of the Public. It is believed that it is a matter of LIFE or DEATH for the woman who vehemently is protesting her innocence of the allegations she has been charged with.
Fortunately, having searched the Case File, it is clear that based on the handwritten notes of the Judge during the ex-parte application made in front of him by the Anti Corruption Commission, Haja Afsatu Kabba has leave to apply for a review of the Order. From the Judge’s notes, it is clear that the ACC’s argument for maintaining secret the identity of the witnesess is because they fear that witnesses’ progress in the civil service will be stalled by victimisation or they will be subjected to threats from Afsatu Kabba’s supporters.
These arguments are to be totally rejected because firstly, Section 82(5) and Section 82(7) of Anti Corruption Act of 2008 handles this issue of victimisation or threat with a stiff jail term of one full year and/or five million leones penalty! Secondly, issue of corruption is so close to the hearts of all in this country that any civil servant who exposes a GENUINE CASE of corruption will be hailed as a hero. Many will salute such act!
Having gone through the Secret Statements of the Witnesses and Bundle of Evidence followed by them interviewing their client, Haja Afsatu Kabba, the Lawyers insist to Awareness Times that the only reason why these ACC witnesses want to testify in secret is because they are LYING and prefer to lie behind closed doors to a Judge than in Public.
If Haja Afsatu Kabba is guilty of the allegations, she stands to benefit from the evidence against her being tendered in secret. However, her lawyers tell Awareness Times that she is now shouting out a loud NO! Haja Afsatu Kabba is insisting that all Statements purporting to incriminate her are false and conspired up; that the Statements will not stand up to public scrutiny so she wants the evidence to be tendered openly so the Public can hear what Abdul Tejan-Cole appended his signature to and took to Law Courts as a ‘corruption case of merit’.
Haja Afsatu Kabba is reported to be insistent on this especially because pro-ACC commentators and pundits are misleading the Public that she enjoys undue political protection which her lawyers tell Awareness Times to be "so untrue". However, many people have been so misled that Haja enjoys special protection within the Judiciary. Infact, it took the speedy intervention of Awareness Times to dispel the myth that Justice Browne-Marke was humiliated by political interference wanting him off the case. Reality is, he asked to be removed when reminded of ties to prosecution & witness Mrs Lisk.
Haja Afsatu Kabba, in light of this heavily financed propaganda against her by powerful forces, is very fearful that if the Judiciary carries out the trial in secret and she gets to be acquitted, as she believes she will surely be, the public might still believe she was guilty all along but that Judiciary was subjected to political interference to set her free. She fears she will still be walking around with a stain on her. Also of utmost importance to Haja Afsatu Kabba’s family, is that there is a VERY REAL DANGER to her life that if these witnesses are allowed to give testimony in secret and she gets acquitted, [they strongly believe she will be acquitted] certain members of the Public who would be misled by the false propaganda that she enjoyed undue political patronage might plot to harm her and/or members of her family because despite her acquittal, they would stay with the belief that she indeed corruptly misappropriated the sum of Le310,000,000 but she was only set free by the Judiciary because of political interference!!
Therefore, in the interest of her getting her hard-won reputation intact and securing her right to life, her supporters insist that the same Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that was cited as a basis for granting the application also states, "...In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and PUBLIC hearing". Whilst the same Article 14 makes provision for measures to protect witnesses, it is implicit that these measures must not be liberally or frivolously applied in contravention of the accused’s right to a "public hearing". The sacredness of the publicity of all trials as an inherent right of an accused person is underscored by the insistence of Article 14 that "such measures are consistent with the rights of the accused person". Furthermore, Article 14 gives the circumstances under which such protective measures are to be applied but none of these circumstances apply in this case of The State versus Afsatu Kabba; The circumstances are:
(a) for reasons of morals, (b) public order (c) national security (d) when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires AND (e) to the extent strictly necessary in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice
None of the above circumstances applies in this Afsatu case. These witnesses are making serious allegations that could send Haja Afsatu Kabba, the Accused person to jail for a minimum period of 21 years behind bars and/or pay a fine of a minimum of Le210,000,000. This is not a light issue but a very serious one; so for State Witnesses to be allowed to make what her lawyers insist are "A SOLID CONCOCTION OF LIES" and then get to be protected whilst they might be exposed to be LIARS is unfair to Haja Afsatu Kabba and puts her life at serious risk as earlier mentioned.
Similarly Section 23(3) of the National Constitution that was also cited, lays great emphasis on the importance of Public Trials and lists the same points as Article 14 for protecting witnesses; none of which applies in this case against Afsatu Kabba.
Her supporters believe she deserves the right to a PUBLIC Trial. Her supporters numbering in the hundreds of thousands also are strong supporters of the country’s fight against corruption. So, obviously, her supporters say that if she is guilty, let the Public see and hear as she is being put to shame; as she is exposed to be a corrupt woman! She deserves the right to a Public Hearing they exclaim! Haja Afsatu Kabba deserves the right for her accusers to be cross-examined in PUBLIC. Her lawyers tell Awareness Times that only then will the Public really understand the extent of the Conspiracy that she is faced with.
"Already people are saying Haja Afsatu Kabba enjoys political patronage in this corruption trial so if she is acquitted after closed door proceedings, people will say it is because of political patronage and not because she was innocent since they will never know what was exposed and debunked behind closed doors," lawyers tell us yesterday adding, "This will stain her for the rest of her political career and the rest of her life on this earth. This is very unfair!".
Furthermore, Section 83(2) of the Anti Corruption Act makes leeway for her rights to be upheld by giving a caveat that witnesses can be protected PROVIDED that this is consistent with the rights as the Accused person. Haja Afsatu Kabba’s supporters believe that it is not consistent with her rights to a Public Trial for these witnesses to state they are at risk because the issue of corruption is one involving passions. Anyone who is genuinely exposing a corrupt person will have nothing to fear from the public but will enjoy hero status in the society since members of the public are consciously aware of the effects of corruption and why it must be fought if it is genuinely brought to the fore. Contrary to the stated claims otherwise, any civil servant who exposes such gross corruption, stands a very good chance of being promoted in this system of ‘Zero Tolerance’ for corruption!
The Order by the Learned Justice Browne-Marke should therefore be reviewed immediately before the Witnesses start to be called as the reasons given during the Ex-parte application as seen during a Search of the Judge’s Notes, are all, in my opinion, non-sustainable logically or otherwise.
The Judge himself makes provision for leave to apply against the protective measures and also for the measures themselves to be reviewed. In this case, Section 83(3) of the Anti Corruption Act makes adequate provision for closed door (in camera) proceedings to be held to determine the merits and demerits of the claims of these witnesses that they fear for their careers and/or their lives.
It’s Haja Afsatu Kabba’s life which is in serious danger if she does not get a fair, public hearing open to the Public. This is extremely dangerous situation for her and her children both now and in the future. Mob Justice has been known to be applied against persons by irate members of the downtrodden in our society during times of civil unrest. Please let Judiciary not subject Haja Afsatu Kabba to be watching over her back for the rest of her life simply because she took up a career to serve her Nation as a politician!!!
IN SUMMARY, contrary to stated conditions desirous of protective witnesses in Section 23(3) of the National Constitution or in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, in this case, a lack of publicity of this Trial will prejudice Haja Afsatu Kabba’s right to justice but most importantly, it will endanger her right to life by exposing her to death via possible mob justice.