Amnesty International has raised a number of concerns over the government of Sierra Leone’s inaction in dispensing justice to families of victims killed in the August 10th protest which turned violent in some parts of Freetown and Northern Sierra Leone, seven months afterwards.
The organization said it collected testimonies that alleged the excessive use of force by Sierra Leonean security forces to crack down on protesters in Freetown, Makeni, and Kamakwie. The bloody incident led to the death of six police officers and more than twenty protesters and bystanders.
Amnesty International’s regional director for West and Central Africa, Samira Daoud, said that even if facing violent protesters law enforcement officials should only resort when they have exhausted all other peaceful means of achieving their objectives. “Any use of force must also be proportionate to the situation they face. In addition, Amnesty International called on the special committee set up to investigate the event to do so promptly and impartially.”
Furthermore, the organisation called for the need for effective and transparent investigations into excessive use of force and killings of all persons. It also advocated for the state to carry out fair trials. This is in response to accusations that people who were arrested during the process were detained and were not granted access to legal representation after being prosecuted for offences ranging from malicious damage, arson, unlawful possession, riotous conduct, and seditious behaviour to murder. One of the lawyers of the detainees said attempts to see their clients in custody failed according to Amnesty.
Amnesty also said the authorities should ensure relatives of victims have access to the burial sites of their loved ones. People who died during the protest were buried by the state in what was described by some Sierra Leoneans as a “travesty.”
Amnesty ended by calling on authorities to protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and ensure policing responds to international and national human rights norms, considering the closeness to elections. It also called for the amendment of the 1965 Public Order Act to expressly include exemption from the prior notification requirement in the case of spontaneous assemblies