URGENT PRESS RELEASE:
Concern at 8 Kono Residents Detained for Over 2 Months Without Charge:
Criminal Justice Organisations call on the President to revisit and revoke his Executive Detention Order of 24 October 2014
On 24 October 2014 His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma signed an Executive Detention Order against 34 people using his powers under the State of Emergency. To date 2 women and 6 men remain detained in the Freetown Female Correctional Centre and Pademba Road Male Prison respectively; they have no warrants or documentation supporting their detention in prison and therefore no date when they will be released. They will remain so detained until it pleases His Excellency to order their release. The police have stated they believe they have no obligation to investigate the matter or charge these individuals because it is an Executive order. Their arrests relate to an alleged riot that took place in Kono in October 2014 over a contested Ebola burial. Two persons were also allegedly shot dead by police officers during the same incident but to date no one has been arrested for those killings, even though police investigations are reportedly ongoing. All detainees have now spent over two months and three weeks in custody following their arrests in Kono on 27 October 2014.
AdvocAid, Centre for Accountability & Rule of Law (CARL), Amnesty International Sierra Leone and Prison Watch, four criminal justice organisations working to promote and protect the rights of detainees in prisons and police stations across Sierra Leone, are deeply concerned by the continued detention of these men and women. They are without recourse to any of the constitutional safeguards provided under section 17 of Sierra Leone’s Constitution, such as the right to be brought before a competent criminal court within the constitutionally specified timescale. The only rights they currently have is to ask the President to release them and if he refuses, for that request to be reviewed within thirty days by an independent tribunal comprising of 3 very senior lawyers. The chairman of the review panel shall be appointed by the Chief Justice and the other 2 members nominated by the Sierra Leone Bar Association. As Sierra Leone is a signatory to several international human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we believe this right to review an executive order detention under the State of Emergency is a fundamental human right that must be recognized and respected by our Government.
AdvocAid, which supports access to justice for women and girls, is particularly alarmed by the continued detention of the two women who say they were not involved in the incident that led to the issue of the presidential detention order and were not told at the time of their arrest the reason for their detention. They have never been asked to make a statement to the police. These women were detained at the Criminal Investigation Department in Freetown for 9 days before they were transferred to the Correctional Centre. They both have children about whose welfare they are concerned. On 9 January 2015 AdvocAid wrote officially to His Excellency requesting their release from detention as provided for by section 29(17) (a) of the Constitution but have not as yet received a response.
The aforenamed organizations therefore:
- Call on His Excellency the President to revisit his Executive Detention Order and release the 8 detainees from custody under the Detention Order immediately or confirm his refusal to release them so that the detained persons can seek a review of that refusal.
- Call upon the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice that in the alternative if there is sufficient evidence, to ensure the individuals are charged to court without delay and enabled to exercise their right to a fair trial.
- Call on the Chief Justice, as head of the Judiciary and chief interpreter of the 1991 Constitution, to prepare to set up an independent and impartial tribunal comprising not more than three legal practitioners of not less than fifteen years standing to review the continued detention of the detainees as set out in section 29(17)(a) – (c).
- Call on the Sierra Leone Bar Association to prepare to nominate the two legal practitioners of not less than fifteen years standing to form part of the panel to review the continued detention of the detainees as set out in section 29(17)(a) – (c)
- Call on the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone to intervene with the President on behalf of these 8 detainees.
- Call on the Sierra Leone Police and the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone to fully investigate the circumstances leading to the alleged unlawful killings of two bystanders during the riot and hold the perpetrators accountable.
- Call on the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone and other non-State criminal justice and human rights actors to thoroughly review section 29 of the Constitution and make appropriate recommendations to the Constitutional Review Committee so that no future State of Emergency detentions take place without adequate safeguards to protect the detention and appeal rights of detainees.
Dated 20 January 2015, Freetown, Sierra Leone
AdvocAid, 39 Brook Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Tel: +232 76 774710. Email: [email protected].
Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Brook Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Tel: +232 76 365499. Email: [email protected].
Amnesty International Sierra Leone, 42 Williams Street, Off Dundas Street, Freetown. Tel: +232 76 680213. Email: [email protected].
Prison Watch Sierra Leone, Gabriel Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Tel: +232 76 680532. Email: [email protected].
Notes to Editors:
- The Public Emergency (Detention) Order 2014 Constitutional Instrument No. 9 of 2014 was signed by the President on 24 October 2014. This Order was gazetted on 4th December 2014.
- Section 17 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 sets out the safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. Section 29 of the same Constitution sets out the provisions applicable during a State of Emergency.
- For further information, contact Simitie Lavaly (Ms), Executive Director, AdvocAid on +232 76 774710 or Ibrahim Tommy, Executive Director of CARL at +232 76 365499 or [email protected]