Frederick K. Cox International Law Center
Frederick K. Cox International Law Center





Case Western Reserve University School of Law
2008 Jessup International Moot Court World Championship Team.

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Special Court for Sierra Leone

ROBERT BLISS

While interning for prosecutions at The Special Court for Sierra Leone (“SCSL”),
initially I joined the Revolutionary United Front (“RUF”) Trial Team. However, soon after I started my internship, prosecutions completed its case in the RUF Trial and the Trial Chamber called a lengthy summer recess. This gave me the opportunity take a temporary break from working on the RUF Trial to work on the Armed Forced Revolutionary Council (“AFRC”) Appeals, and preparation for the Charles Taylor (“Taylor”) Trial, including contacting witnesses in remote parts of Sierra Leone to testify. I also went on outreach missions with the Chief Prosecutor, represented prosecutions at a donation ceremony for the Amputee Football League, volunteered as a legal observer during the presidential elections, and attended legal arguments before the Supreme Court for Sierra Leone. After summer recess I resumed my work on the RUF Trial.

RUF Trial Chamber Experience: As an intern for the RUF Trial Team, I attended trial, drafted motions and letters, and filed them with the court or hand delivered them to members of the defense team. I also drafted questions for cross examination, reviewed and organized electronic evidence, reviewed transcripts and trial recordings, summarized relevant witness testimony and imputed it into case map and the prosecutions final trial brief. I also utilized case map to prepare witness folders for trial. Additionally, I performed legal research using Lexis Nexus and Westlaw and drafted the prosecutions legal arguments section for Article 6(1) crimes in the final trial brief. All seven members of the RUF Trial Team share one large open office in which everyone’s desk faces the middle of the room, creating an environment conducive to cooperation, discussion and camaraderie. I found this to be a very intimate and enjoyable work environment, and I got to know all of the attorneys working on the team very well.

AFRC Appeals Experience: I was fortunate enough to join the Appeals Team in time to see the three AFRC defendants convicted. A substantial portion of the work that I did for the AFRC Appeals entailed analyzing the 631 page AFRC Trial Chamber Judgment and making graphs clarifying and pinpointing what evidence the Trial Chamber used to find the accused guilty of which crimes. Additionally I researched Joint Criminal Enterprise (“JCE”) extensively producing several internal memos concerning the matter, and I helped draft the JCE ground of appeal, as well as other grounds of appeal concerning forced marriage and sexual slavery. I also did a substantial amount of footnote checking and legal research for the AFRC Appeals Brief, and I filed documents with the court. Additionally, I also attended weekly meetings with the AFRC Appeals Team in which we discussed our various research, and the progress and feasibility of our grounds of appeal. My last week in Sierra Leone, I was in court for the AFRC Appeals Hearings in their entirety. Preparing for the Appeals Hearings and countering defense arguments required use of case map, as well as conventional research in the Special Court library, concerning Sierra Leonean law. This was a very rewarding experience because I got to see the fruition of all our work.

Taylor Trial Investigations and Case Building Experience: I assisted the Taylor Team by locating and scanning and then e-mailing important documents to the Netherlands, and filing papers with the court. Additionally I utilized, the ICTR, ICTY, and SCSL databases as well as Lexis Nexus and Westlaw to perform legal research, and I helped organize and catalogue newly acquired evidence for the Taylor Trial when it arrived from Monrovia. I also took two week long trips into remote parts of Sierra Leone with Investigators and witness management with locate, interview, and prepare witnesses to travel and testify for the Taylor Trial in The Netherlands. Once prospective witnesses were located, I met with them and an interpreter to review their previous statements for accuracy, and helped determine what level of security and identity protection they would require when they testify.

Outreach: After the AFRC Trail Chamber Judgment was handed down, I went with a team of court employees by helicopter to town hall meetings in remote parts of Sierra Leone. The purpose of these town hall meetings was to discuss with village elders, chiefs and the public what the judgment meant for the future of Sierra Leone. Outreach is an important part of the mandate for SCSL, and provides a good opportunity for special court employees to get a better understanding of how the trials are perceived by Sierra Leoneans.

Donation Ceremony: In order to ensure that the Amputee Football League was able to attend the world championships in Turkey, members of Prosecutions donated money to the cause. After all the money was collected, I attended a donation Ceremony and an amputee football game with two other representatives of the court in order to present our contribution, meet the people the funds would support and to promote a positive attitude among attendees about the workings of the court.

Supreme Court of Sierra Leone and Election Observer: With a colleague who works at the Special Court part time and works at a private firm in Freetown, I attended a hearing before the Supreme Court for Sierra Leone in which attorneys for former vice president of Sierra Leone, Solomon Berewa, and his political opponent in the upcoming elections, Charles Margai, made legal arguments pertaining to the constitutionality of then-Vice President Berewa’s candidacy. Later I was a legal observer during the elections, which was a great way to see an emerging democracy in action. I also attended the Ernest Bai Koromas inaugural ceremony which was a very unique and interesting experience.

The Cox Center awards up to 35 grants every summer to support international law internships around the globe.