''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XII No 1

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Friday January 1, 2016 - As Sierra Leone's commitment to human rights comes under scrutiny, rights group says the government of the rat has failed to bring perpetrators of violations to book. Condemns the public examination of humiliation of school girls alleged to be pregnant.

This month sees the spotlight focused on Sierra Leone's human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the rights group Amnesty International (AI) has, in a report, evaluated the implementation of recommendations accepted by Sierra Leone in a previous UPR. AI says it remains concerned about continuing complaints of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, arbitrary arrests, and excessive use of force by police.

It says it is also concerned about the use of criminal defamation charges against journalists which undermine the right to freedom of expression and the ban on pregnant girls attending mainstream school and sitting exams.

The AI says that

"The government has not done enough to investigate and hold accountable police officers accused of using arbitrary or abusive force. Two cases are highlighted -

"In April 2012, police killed an unarmed woman, Musu Conteh, and injured at least 11 others when workers at a mining company in Bumbuna, Tonkolili held a peaceful demonstration against poor working conditions and remuneration.

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone investigated the incident and called for criminal investigations and prosecutions. The government initiated a Coroner's Inquest into the killing; however, to date no one has been held to account.

There were at least two allegations of unlawful killings by the police in 2014, when the police opened fire in response to a riot in Kono relating to a suspected Ebola case. So far there has been no effective and independent investigation into the killings.

Amnesty International has also documented increased restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly during the state of emergency imposed in July 2014 to combat the Ebola outbreak.

There has been an increase in arrests of opposition members, bans on peaceful protests and an unwillingness to tolerate dissent following the removal of former Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana on 18 March 2015.

On Sierra Leone’s Independence Day on 27 April 2015, 15 members of the main opposition party, Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and a Senior Officer from the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, were arrested in Kenema following a protest at the SLPP office.

They are currently on trial. There are concerns about excessive use of force during arrest by the police with several people injured.

Amnesty International says it is concerned at the Ministry of Education’s discriminatory policy of barring pregnant girls from attending school and sitting their Basic Education Certification Exams (BECE) exams which was launched on 30 March 2015.

The policy appears to be based on discriminatory views and negative stereotypes. The great shame - violence against children in Sierra Leone.

The Minister has expressed the view that he fears that pregnant girls will set a bad example to other girls.

Sources indicate that many pregnant girls are afraid to attend school because of the statements by the Minister of Education and others in the media. The exclusion of pregnant girls from school and exams seems to be a common practice as highlighted by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.

For example, in 2011 the West African Examinations Council stopped pregnant girls in Sierra Leone from taking their exams. In some cases, the ban on pregnant girls attending mainstream schools is being enforced through humiliating and degrading treatment of the girls.

Amnesty International interviewed girls who had experienced or witnessed others being subjected to degrading procedures by teachers and others in positions of authority, such as nurses.

For example, girls have had their breasts and stomachs felt by adults in public on school premises to see if they are pregnant.

Some girls have been compelled by their schools to take urine tests. This practice violates girls’ rights to privacy, physical and mental integrity and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The examples highlighted are the tip of the iceberg of human rights violation by state actors and others enjoying the protection of the state. It would be recalled that a number of reports on these violations have been reported on and in some instances, the rat himself had authorised investigations but alas, nothing has been done giving the impression that impunity would always be encouraged as long as it serves the agenda of the government, the ruling APC party and its operatives.

The use of sexual violence as a weapon of choice by ruling party operatives as well as the armed wing of the police, the OSD is well documented with the government doing nothing to address the situation.

Indeed one member of the Executive was recently cleared of rape allegations in court after a massive government-sponsored media campaign that vilified the victim painting her as someone who practically asked for the sexual assault on her with some of the paid media outlets writing articles that gave no respect to the rights and privacy of the victim. It is not lost on Sierra Leoneans that the Judiciary is controlled by the Executive (read the rat at State House) and that victims of sexual and other forms of violence have no chance of getting justice. Here's what one Freetown news outlet AWOKO reported -

"In the alleged rape and assault case against former deputy Minister of Education 2, Mahmoud Tawarally, a High court yesterday acquitted and discharged him.

Addressing the Freetown High Court No.2, Justice Abdulai Charm said that he would base his ruling on count one which is rape, since they had earlier requested in their oral submission that he squashes count two, three and four, since there was insufficient evidence.

In his ruling, the Judge said that consent was very vital in determining the outcome of the case. He went on to narrate the testimony of the prosecution witnesses stating that eight of them gave evidence before the court.

He added that in most cases, consent might be determined by the circumstances surrounding the matter. He also emphasized that there should be consistency in recent complaint.

Nine prosecution witnesses were presented before the court by the prosecution to prove their case.

Disregarding other evidences which to him was not strong enough to prove the prosecution’s case, the judge ruled in favour of the Minister based on the testimony of the medical doctor, Dr. Matilda King, in which she stated before the court that there was no injury in the victim’s private part.

The former deputy minister was charged two years ago on four count charges which include rape, wounding with intent, wounding and assault occasioning bodily harm, due to an alleged rape and assault of a 24 year-old lady who claimed that she went to the former deputy minister for a Ukrainian scholarship."

Dr Matilda King. Where have we seen that name before? Ah yes - she was the doctor who is reported to have said that the SLPP women who alleged they had been raped by marauding APC party supporters were being economical with the truth - that they were not raped.

The Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law, CARL a rights group in Sierra Leone that had been following the case issued a statement - part of which reads -

CARL is...disappointed that the rights of the alleged victim were not fully respected in the course of the proceedings. In particular, during the preliminary investigation the alleged victim was made to testify in open court and without the various protective measures provided under the Sexual Offences Act 2012.

CARL was particularly alarmed by the fact that no measures were applied by the court to ensure that the alleged victim was prevented from seeing the accused, and that her testimony was occasionally interrupted by loud murmuring from the gallery. This was not only a violation of the law, but it also compromised the security and safety of the alleged victim. But for the swift intervention of the police, the alleged victim could have been lynched by persons who were apparently supporters of the accused.

This further reminds us of the failure of, and the need for, the Rules of Court Committee to develop rules relating to special measures for victims testifying before the court. CARL acknowledges and commends the High Court for ensuring that protective measures were provided for the alleged victim during the trial.

CARL further notes, with regret, that some sections of the press flagrantly violated Section 41 of the Sexual Offences Act 2012 when they published information that had the effect of identifying the alleged victim.

Even though the law specifies a penalty for such a breach, the law enforcement officers were remiss in their failure to hold the perpetrators accountable. The Independent Media Commission also glaringly failed to investigate whether such publications amounted to a breach of the media code of ethics.

CARL urges the Sierra Leone Police to launch an investigation into the alleged violations.

The learned judge acquitted and discharged the accused on the offence of rape by principally relying on the evidence of the medical doctor which, according to the judge, contradicted the alleged victim’s evidence as to the accused having used force to gain [sexual] penetration.

The verdict, however, noted the findings of the same medical doctor that the alleged victim had “a deep cut with swelling on the lower lip; abrasion from a finger mark on the right side of the face by the eye; redness of the right eye, etc.”

The judge said he could not, however, ascertain when the injuries were caused or inflicted on the accused. “Was it before or after the sexual intercourse?”, the judge asked. As the doctor could not state with certainty whether the injuries were received before or after the sexual intercourse, especially given the alleged victim’s testimony that the accused assaulted her after the intercourse, he did not find evidence of rape.

Although the judge relied primarily on the report and opinion of the medical doctor in concluding that the alleged victim was not raped, the judge however acquitted and discharged the accused on the count of assault even though the same medical report showed that the alleged victim had “a deep cut with swelling on the lower lip; abrasion from a finger mark on the right side of the face by the eye; redness of the right eye, etc.”.

This was an opportunity for the court to make a strong statement on violence against women and girls. Sadly it was not taken, even though the judge could have inferred the assault from the medical examination report before him. In other words, he could have still convicted the accused on assault even after acquitting and discharging him of rape."

The report on an independent investigation into the violence in Bo in which the flag bearer of the main opposition, Julius Maada Bio was wounded, the APC party office torched and at least one unarmed motor cycle rider was murdered by a police officer had long been presented by the Kelvin Lewis Commission and yet nothing has been done to bring perpetrators to justice.

The report of the Shears-Moses Inquiry set up by the rat himself made a number of recommendations including sanctions against one of his so-called close protection officers - one Idrissa Kamara also known as Leatherboot, a former soldier now said to be serving with the police. This is a part of the report -

"We are amazed that a Police Officer charged with the responsibility of protecting the President as bodyguard would leave State House unguarded without permission, with about two men and proceed to the scene without the knowledge of anyone in authority.

It portrays irresponsibility, disregard of authority, sign of recklessness, and indiscipline. One of the victims of the Bumbuna state-sponsored terror

We have been able to see a video recording of the scenes at the SLPP headquarters on 16th March 2009 (attached to this report as Appendix B). While we actually saw the said "Leatherboot" at the scene, he was not in anyway seen to be trying to bring the situation under control.

There is no doubt that those men and women in the SLPP headquarters were shaken and in fear for their lives. By the evidence before us, they took refuge at the top of the building and would only give themselves up when they observed that United Nations Personnel were there to get them out of the building.

He was also involved in the massive brutal assault on one Tom Nyuma who was accused of trying to kill one Ernest Bai Koroma, the Presidential candidate of the then opposition APC party.

Leatherboot is also implicated in the violence perpetrated against civilians under the terror of the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil in 1997/8 and there are living witnesses who can testify to the various acts ordered and carried out by him during the January 6, 1999 invasion of the capital Freetown.

There's quite clearly now, given the unwillingness and inability of the government to hold to account those responsible for the many human rights abuses, for the international community to step in to enforce international justice.

Impunity should not be allowed.

Update: If the deputy minister was cleared of rape - what about the other charges relating to alleged violent conduct against the victim?

What message is this sending to others who use their position - be it in the party or government or connections thereof to take advantage of their victims?

Is the Joseph Kamara ACC aware that this could well have been the case of an official using/abusing his office for an advantage and that he should have taken the appropriate action?



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