Sam Hinga Norman, indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity, died today in Dakar, Senegal, where he was seeking medical treatment. Norman, who was the National Coordinator of the Civil Defense Forces, was charged with enlisting child soldiers, among other crimes, but is still seen by some in Sierra Leone as a hero for opposing rebel forces that sought to overthrow an elected government. His case, which went to trial in June 2004, is pending before the Trial Chamber.
Norman follows a growing number of individuals accused of perpetrating international crimes who have died before facing justice -- Pol Pot, Slobodan Milosevic, Ta Mok, Augusto Pinochet. What do these deaths mean for the international justice project? Norman's case had gone to trial before he died, and the others lived under the spectre of efforts to hold them accountable for these crimes. While we mourn the lost opportunity to punish those who have violated international law, we should also celebrate the ignominy that the international justice movement brought upon these men prior to their deaths.