1.1 Background to the Inquiry
86. From the 16th to the 18th of April, 2012, the workers of African Minerals Ltd (AML) in Bumbuna, Tonkolili District in the Northern Province of the Republic of Sierra Leone went on strike protesting against low pay, discriminatory treatment and poor working conditions. In response to the activities of the demonstrators, the Sierra Leone Police moved in to maintain law and order. During the police operation in Bumbuna, the police were reported to have used live ammunition and tear-gas canisters indiscriminately sending the whole township into panic. Residents fled the township to nearby communities like Magburaka, Tonkolili District; Makeni, Bombali District; and Binkolo, Bombali District; to seek refuge and protect themselves.
87. The death of
one person was reported and confirmed, a number of people sustained gunshot
injuries while others were severely beaten and wounded. There were unconfirmed
allegations that three other persons had been killed and their bodies dumped
into the river. There were reports that youths stoned and severely injured
policemen during the skirmishes. It was further alleged by the Head of the
Police Media and Public Relations, ASP Ibrahim Samura that the youths were in
possession of petrol bombs and shotguns
88. There were also allegations of arbitrary arrests and detentions in which the police are reported to have broken into private homes, arrested the occupants and carted away their property. Market women reported loss of their goods as a result of the incident and certain women complained of unwarranted violence and verbal abuse by the police. It was further alleged that in their bid to contain the unrest, the police sought to arrest a broadcaster, one Rev. Daniel Bangura, working for Radio Numbara in Bumbuna who the police accused of inciting the youths into violence using a radio broadcast that was transmitted throughout the night of the 17th April, 2012.
89. The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) received this information through an Incident Report, Exhibit HRCSL B 48, filed by its Northern Region Human Rights Officer on the 18th April, 2012. In addition, these events were comprehensively covered by the Sierra Leone Media, both print and electronic. Annex 4 lists examples of print media coverage of the events of the 16th to 18th April, 2012 in Bumbuna.
90. Upon receipt of the Incidence Report and monitoring of media coverage of the events, the Commission undertook a fact-finding mission to Bumbuna from the 9th to 11th May, 2012 with follow-up trips on the 22nd and 24th of May, 2012. The mission was undertaken in order to help Commissioners and staff to gain a deeper understanding of the issues that caused the crisis that led to the loss of life, the wounding of several persons, the destruction of property and the temporary displacement of people.
91. Prior to the Bumbuna incident, the Commission had received a complaint from the residents of Feregbeya, also in Bumbuna in December 2010. In Complaint, No HRCSL-NR 12/2010 -21, Ibrahim Koroma, on behalf of his subjects against the Inspector General of Police and the LUC Magburaka Police Division, the residents of Feregbeya in Kalasongoia Chiefdom which also covers Bumbuna, complained against a brutal campaign by the police to quell a protest against the activities of AML in their community.
92. Upon careful consideration of the events in Bumbuna of April 16th to 18th, as contained in the Incidence Report, Exhibit HRCSL B 48, the media and the report of the Fact-Finding Mission, Exhibit HRCSL B 47, and considering the earlier complaint by a community in the same area, the Commission was of the opinion that there appeared to be systemic or repeat violations of particular human rights. The Commission then took a decision, on its own initiative, to conduct a public inquiry into the allegations of or into the apparent gross violations of human rights in order to determine the situation, its causes, and make appropriate orders, directives or recommendations to deal with the situation or to prevent the violations from reoccurring and make appropriate orders, directives or recommendations for the victims where violations would be confirmed.
93. Under Section 7(2)(a) of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act, 2004, the Commission has the mandate, on its own initiative, to investigate alleged human rights violations that come to its knowledge through a public inquiry as provided for under Rules 42 to 56 of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (Complaints, Investigations and Inquiries) Rules, 2008.
Terms of Reference
94. The terms of reference for this Inquiry were to:
Investigate the alleged gross human rights violations that occurred in Bumbuna between 16th and 18th April 2012 with a view to understanding their nature, causes and scale and to identify those individuals or institutions responsible;
Examine and determine individual cases of the victims of the alleged human rights violations and abuse;
Document, analyze and articulate the human rights issues and violations experienced by affected communities as a consequence of the activities, actions, omissions or negligence of private companies;
Understand the human rights implications of the policy and legal framework relating to the exploitation of mineral resources in so far as the welfare of workers and host communities are concerned;
Prepare a report containing key findings, conclusions and recommendations , directives and orders including legal and policy reforms; and,
Issue orders for remedies to victims in appropriate cases.
List of Issues Considered
95. Under Rule 44 of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (Complaints, Investigations and Inquiries) Rules, 2008, the Commission is required, once the decision to conduct an Inquiry has been taken, to frame issues that would be the subject of the inquiry and communicate those to the public. The framing of the issues was informed by the findings of the preliminary investigations into the events by a fact-finding mission to Bumbuna from the 9th to 11th of May 2012 with follow-up visits on the 22nd and 24th of May, 2012.
96. These issues, together with the terms of reference, were framed and communicated to the public through a Public Notice (Exhibit HRCSL B 44) published in eleven (11) national newspapers in Sierra Leone and aired on seven radio stations and the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) television (TV). These radio stations were Star Radio, SLBC radio, Africa Young Voices (AYV) Radio, Radio Democracy 98.1, Radio Makneh, Radio Maria and Radio Numbara. Radio Makneh and Radio Maria broadcast in the Northern Province, which covers Bumbuna. Radio Numbara is the local community radio station in Bumbuna.
97. The issues that were before the Panel for investigation were:
a) Whether the police used disproportionate force leading to serious personal injuries and loss of life in violation of the right to life, contrary to section 16 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991, and contrary to article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), as well as article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
b) Whether the police subjected the residents of Bumbuna to arbitrary arrest and detention, contrary to section 17 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991; contrary to article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966; and, contrary to article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR);
c) Whether some members of the Bumbuna community were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, contrary to section 20 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991 and contrary to article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR);
d) Whether Bumbuna residents had their right to property violated, contrary to section 21 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 and, contrary to article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR);
e) Whether the aggrieved workers were discriminated against at AML and on the basis of their nationality, race or social status, contrary to international and regional treaties Sierra Leone has signed;
f) Whether the workers of African Minerals Limited were denied just and favourable conditions of work in violation of national labour laws and article 7 of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, 1966; and,
g) Whether the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly of the demonstrators, society women, and the radio broadcaster were violated through police action, contrary to sections 25 and 26 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991; contrary to articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966; and, contrary to articles 9 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR).
98. As required by Rule 45 (1) of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (Complaints, Investigations and Inquiries), 2008 in the Public Notice that announced the decision to conduct this Inquiry (Exhibit HRCSL B 44), the Commission publicly named persons or institutions that, in view of the Public Inquiry Secretariat, had a central role or interest in what happened in Bumbuna on the 16th to 18th April, 2012. These people or institutions were:
a) Francis Munu, Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police
b) Supt. Samuel Benedict Vandi – Strategic Regional Support Officer (Makeni)
c) Supt. Alfred C. Dassama, LUC Magburaka
d) Asst. Supt. Daniel Bockarie Konneh, OC, Bumbuna Police Station
e) PC Alimamy B.Y. Koroma III, the Paramount Chief, Bumbuna
f) Frank Timis, Executive Chairman, African Minerals Ltd
g) Moseray Fadika, CEO African Minerals (SL) Ltd
h) The late Hindolo S. Trye, Minister for Labour and Social Security
i) Minkailu Mansaray, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources
j) Allie D. Kamara, Resident Minister, Northern Province
k) Tim Fofana, Community Liaison Officer, African Minerals Ltd
l) Moses Gbondo, General Secretary, Mining and Allied Services Employees Union
m) Sheriff Ismail, President of the Tonkolili Progressive Union
n) Mohamed Conteh, Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food (SiLNoRF)
o) Mr. Falla Ensa- N’Dayma, President, Trade Union Confederation of Sierra Leone (TUC-SL).
99. Initially, the Commission identified and named twelve (12) Interested Persons. Under Rule 45 (2), an interested institution or person can apply to be added and named as such if they demonstrate they have a central role or an interest in the issues central to the Inquiry. Upon the release of the Public Notice, three applications were received and favourably considered.
The three Interested Persons who were added after application were:
a) Sheriff Ismail, President of the Tonkolili Progressive Union
b) Mohamed Conteh, Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food (SiLNoRF)
c) Mr. Falla Ensa- N’Dayma, President, Trade Union Confederation of Sierra Leone (TUC-SL)
100. The named Interested Persons were expected to help the Inquiry find answers to the questions before it and especially attend the sitting of the Panel presiding over the Inquiry in Bumbuna and answer to questions put to them. During the sitting of the Inquiry Panel in Bumbuna, two Interested Persons did not appear or send representatives.
These two Interested Persons did not give reasons either before or after the sitting in Bumbuna for their failure to honour the invitation of the HRCSL to appear and testify before the Inquiry Panel in Bumbuna. They were:
a) Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources
b) Allie D. Kamara, Resident Minister, Northern Province
101. According to the HRCSL Act 2004, this is an act of contempt.