Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 August 2019:
The Executive Director of Amnesty International (Sierra Leone), Solomon Sogbandi, has said in Freetown that the continued detention of opposition politicians – Karamoh Kabbah and 22 others is a violation of their human rights.
All 23 were arrested a couple of months ago, and despite their several appearances in court, no evidence has been brought forward by the police or the ruling SLPP party operative who is accusing the opposition politicians of malicious damage to her property.
What human rights observers find troubling, is that all 23 have been denied bail, and continue to languish in jail.
Last Monday, Amnesty International’s (Sierra Leone) Executive Director – Solomon Sogbandi, said that “The rights of the accused persons have been violated in relationship to the issue of access to bail and we are still concerned that to date the accused are still behind bars.”
Sogbandi noted that the accused were detained during the Police investigation for a period longer than what the law required. “When the matter was charged to Court, the Magistrate has consecutively refused bail to the accused persons… Amnesty International is expressing serious concern and appealing to the Magistrate to expedite the bail principles and policies around the accused to ensure that they are granted bail”, he added.
He referenced the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and urged the judiciary, especially the Magistrate Court to ensure the accused have a fair trial… by having less stringent bail conditions.
“We agree that bail is at the discretion of the Magistrate or the Judge but we have a revised bail policy of 2017, which makes provisions that while it is discretionary, it should not be left at the liberty of the magistrate or judge. You should be mindful of the fact that there are human rights issues around bail… except otherwise where there are crimes that do not warrant bail”, he said.
What the Bio led government must now be worried about is the continuing tainting of its human rights record, which critics say has been blighted since winning the 2018 elections, after scores of people living in the SLPP political heartland suspected of belonging to the defeated APC party, were seriously beaten and their homes destroyed.
The opposition APC is also accusing the SLPP government of sacking hundreds of public servants believed to be supporters of the APC party.
Political tension in Sierra Leone is worsening and there is no evidence in sight of a peace initiative aimed at bringing the ruling SLPP and the opposition parties to a roundtable for a resolution of their differences.
Resumption of parliamentary sittings after annual recess
Meanwhile, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament has issued a statement informing all Members of Parliament and the General Public, that parliamentary sittings will resume after its annual recess, tomorrow Thursday 29th August 2019 at 10:00 am the Chamber of Parliament, at Tower Hill, Freetown.
“Members of Parliament are therefore informed that their official recess will end on Wednesday 28th August 2019. Consequently, the Right Honourable Speaker of Parliament is encouraging all Members of Parliament to be present for the commencement of proceedings on Thursday 29th August 2019 at 10:00 am. Meanwhile, MPs are advised to collect from their pigeonholes a document entitled: Citizen’s Development Factsheet, for consideration starting Monday 26th August 2019.”
But it is not certain whether the opposition APC members of parliament will stay away from parliament tomorrow, in protest at what they say is “the continuing incarceration of APC party supporters”.
The opposition APC has lost 10 of their MPs to the ruling SLPP, after a High Court petition ruling that disqualified over a dozen APC MPs from taking their seats in parliament, accused of electoral irregularities at the March 2018 polling. This has now given the ruling SLPP party a majority in the country’s parliament.
The opposition APC has appealed against those High Court judgements, and is still waiting for their case to be heard by the Supreme Court.