Amnesty International condemns killing of prisoners in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 May 2020:

As the government of Sierra Leone starts to count the cost to its image and reputation as a trusted partner for development and custodian of the country’s democratic credential’s, after the killing of eleven prisoners by armed presidential guard firing at protesting prisoners in Freetown, Amnesty International is calling for “prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the reasons that led to the riot and the heavy-handed response from prison guards who used live ammunition.”

This is the statement published by Amnesty International yesterday, Thursday:

Following a riot which took place yesterday in Sierra Leone’s biggest correctional service centre, reportedly resulting in the death of at least a prison officer, Marta Colomer, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Deputy Director, said:

“The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Freetown’s central prison on 28 April, causing alarm among people detained therein who live in severely cramped conditions. There have been some restrictive measures imposed by the authorities, including the prohibition of visits by their relatives.

“Prisoners are concerned about getting enough food after the prohibition on visits, as well as the spread of the virus and their ability to take preventive measures against COVID-19.

“Yesterday’s riot shows that prisoners are becoming increasingly desperate at the government’s inaction to protect their right to health. There must be a prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the reasons that led to the riot and the heavy-handed response from prison guards who used live ammunition. The use of force even resulted in the death of at least one prison officer who was reportedly hit by a stray bullet.

“We are calling on the Sierra Leone authorities to put their promises to release hundreds of detainees into action – unless overcrowding is eased and conditions of detention improved, there is a risk of further riots and infections. They should release all those held in pre-trial detention and consider the release of other prisoners at risk, such as older people and those with underlying medical conditions.”


The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Freetown’s correctional service centre on 28 April 2020.

It is not clear what started yesterday’s riot, but it became violent after inmates set fire to walls. Security guards shot live ammunition in response. According to information received by Amnesty International, a prison officer was hit by a stray bullet, resulting in his death.

To commemorate Sierra Leone’s Independence Day, President Julius Maada Bio announced the release of 235 prisoners nationwide on 27 April, but as yet there is no confirmation that they have been released.

Freetown’s prison was originally built for a capacity of less than 300 prisoners but today it has more than 1,000 inmates.

Even in times of emergency, law enforcement officials may only use force that is necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate objective, and must minimize harm and damage. International standards on the use of force require that intentional lethal force is only used where it is strictly unavoidable to protect another life from an imminent threat. (END).

There are fears the economic and investment costs of the killing of those prisoners may be very high, if international partners, donors and foreign investors decide that Sierra Leone is once again becoming far too violent, fragile and unstable.

How president Bio and his government handle this crisis will now determine Sierra Leone’s future, especially with the increasing uncertainty about possible crackdown on political opponents following the arrest today of the former social welfare minister in the Koroma government – Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden.

It is not clear whether Dr Blyden will tonight be granted bail or locked up at the CID until  Monday, without charge. It is understood that she is being represented by an all-female lawyers.


  1. The mandate of the Amnesty International is to advocate for the lives of citizens around the world whether the killing is lawful or unlawful. The right of every government is to protect the lives and properties of the nation. But before the conclusion of the investigation of this sad event, Sierra Leone needs peace stability to defeat this dreadful disease.

  2. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I am really impressed with your patriotism.

  3. People we need to stop being hypocritical. We are now living in a world full of ungodly behaviors, bad leadership and corrupt individuals. I think its time we put an end to all these things happening around our surroundings, lets be proactive and do what we can in order to transform this surrounding of ours.

    To add unto this, I have lived in a country, a country I called home. A country full of negative and positive mindsets, a home with religious tolerance and inno-entrepreneurs (innovators and entrepreneurs). I love people but people that are not hypocrits. I want to live in a world without hypocrisy. Lets put aside tribalism and political difference, but a world where everyone has a symbol of ‘Ubuntu’ and not a symbol of hatred and self-centeredness.

    I don’t want people to see others as human beings only but as humans with potentials, dignity and awareness to bring change to our prosperous African continent. Lets stand outside of our comfort zones and do things that are extraordinary for us to create a better atmosphere for our country Sierra Leone.

  4. Have we ever find out the reasons for all the unrest in Sierra Leone. President Bio invited Paolo Conteh to brainstorm on the cov-19 at state house and he took a well loaded pistol and surveillance watch with him to do what? When he was sent to pademba prison more than three decades no prison break attempt have been carried out why now?

    SLPP party office was attacked in Freetown by who? The resident minister farm in the northern part of Sierra Leone was burnt by who? APC being the main opposition leader which meaningful contributions have they made to the Bio-led Government? Let International Community tell us who is disturbing the peace in Sierra Leone. RIP anyways to those who lost their lives in the process.

    • Amnesty international should look at the excesses of the APC. They are intolerant to the SLPP govt and have ever since vowed to make the country ungovernable. In democracy there is the rule of law. Koroma should be arrested because he is the mastermind of all the problems. Amnesty International should leave us,ok. Let’s deal with the APC squarely.

  5. It’s rather unfortunate for the Bio Adminstration to be supressing the lives of the peaceful citizens, Two years now things are going ffrom bad to worse, and I think they should put away their ego and put the country first. What happened on Wednesday – we the people of mama Salone are not happy; and we are calling on the international community to look into this killing at Pademba Road Prison which led to 14 inmates losing their lives.

    • oh God save us from this trouble, every day bad news about the country no good news.God hand mercy on Mama Saline.

  6. It is sad. I have been following the tread of this communication and it is so pathetic to read some comments that justify Wednesday’s actions as necessary and comparing the actions to uncomparable events. Ladies and gentlemen these are lives gone.

    The fact that Bio is yet to say a word about the incident says how inhumane he is. These are your fellow sierra Leoneans regardless of party differences. Even the hard core sceptics of the opposition comments will now believe that this was a state managed event led by your deputy minister of Internal Affairs. The souls of the dead will come back to hunt the leadership and his team.

    Justice will prevail sooner. We have seen it and we are sure it will happen.

  7. Oh!!! Amnesty International condemns the killings at Pademba Road? Would Amnesty International have endorsed the alternative – showering prison escapees with flowers and allowing them to raid Law courts, assassinate judges before making their way to State House to execute the president?

    In a country like the United States, a kid pointing a toy gun at a police officer would be instantly blown away let alone a group of hardcore criminals attempting to riot at a maximum security prison.

    The safety of innocent Sierra Leoneans must not be compromised in a bid for Sierra Leone to look like a promised land. And it is time for the much tired talk about investors turning their backs away from Sierra Leone to be relegated into oblivion. The safety of Sierra Leoneans trumps any promises of multi-million dollar investments landing in Sierra Leone.

    My sympathy goes to the families of the gallant prison officers who lost their lives. May their souls rest in perfect peace.

    • Not impressive Mr Bilal Coleman. What point are you trying to make Mr. Bilal Coleman? It seems, there is nothing for you to defend this time around. The killing of these prisoners in cold blooded murder, by members of the Presidential Guard, has placed President Bio and his Administration on the defensive and in a very bad situation internationally. I don’t see how President Bio and his Administration will come out of this bloody mess victorious. Den Haag just have to intervene sometime down the road. God help Mr. Bilal Coleman talk about the overwhelming use of force to kill prisoners and prison officers, by the Presidential security guards in Sierra Leone, rather than talking about kids pointing toy guns at police officers in the US.

  8. Make no mistake my brothers and sisters of this great forum that the assassination of those eleven prisoners by president Bio’s personal bodyguards is nothing other than another extra-judicial killing by a man who in 1992 along with his military junta khaki boys executed 29 souls belonging to the opposition APC.

    Oh how history is repeating itself once again! President Bio is now a retired brigadier but his mentality and ambition to wipe out APC is still ever so strong. Executing those prisoners in cold blood because they are rioting against the presence of covid-19 in their cells is crime against humanity and the world must sit up and take note.Summary execution or extra-judicial killing is crime against humanity.

    Sudanese ex-president Omar al-Bashir is standing trial as a good reminder of what is possible when a leader turns cowboy!

    • Thank you very much Mr.Manni for your straight talk. What is happening with the former Sudanese president is going to happen in Sierra Leone. No doubt about that. The former NPRC regime commandants escaped the doors of Den Haag, because former President Ahmed Tejan Kabba was trying to unite the country. But that has to change when the SLPP will be voted out of power in 2023. I don’t see how they could escape this. All sorts of evidence are now available to prosecute the tyrants killing people in cold blood and broad daylight.

      Two years on, the Bio Administration still struggles to rule Sierra Leone peacefully. Barbarity, Gross violation of citizens human rights, corruption at the doorsteps of State House, unlawful incarceration of peaceful citizens and now killing of prisoners rioting for their rights in cold blood by members of the Presidential Guard, is all what they could offer the people of Sierra Leone.

      The evidence keeps piling up which is good for making the case in 2023. Believe me Manni. They will never get out of this mess. They are completely tangled within the web of international justice. May the souls of all those killed in cold blooded murder at Pademba Road Prisons by members of the Presidential security guards rest in perfect peace. Amen and Amen.

  9. I will be failing in my duty, if I fail to thank the Editor of this widely read and globally respected online Newspaper, Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas, for bringing us the news out of Sierra Leone in real time these past few days. When VIPs and people well placed, call and ask you, if you have read the news on the Sierra Leone Telegraph Newspaper, makes me proud and feel good as someone contributing responsibly on this glorious platform.

    I never knew till six months ago, that what we say on this glorious platform, carries weight and influence globally. International organizations, our partners, donors and investors trust most of what we say here and now rely on this news outlet for news and information out of Sierra Leone according to a reliable source. No wonder, why more than 26,000 readers visit this globally read and respected online Newspaper daily. What an achievement. Again, thank you very much Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas and may God bless you.

  10. Each time pictures and videos regarding barbarity and violence by the security forces go viral, Sierra Leone loses investors and our partners lose confidence in us. Does the Bio Administration know that? There seems to be no one in charge at the helm of power. It’s just total chaos at a time when we need unity to face the challenges of Coronavirus. It’s ridiculous to see party officials doing the job of IG Sovula and others. You can never succeed as a government, when you rule a country like a political party and not like a government. No matter what military Hardware or Armada you have. People’s power is greater than military hardware.

    Is the Bio Administration thinking about the hardship caused by this pandemic? Is the Bio Administration concerned about how bad the image of the country has been damaged? Are they concerned about losing investors and further isolating of our country from our international partners and donors? The killing of the prisoners, prison officers, arresting the wife of a political detainee, and now, intimidating and arresting an opposition leader, just make an already bad situation worse.

    The Bio Administration can’t fight Coronavirus without the help of the people of Sierra Leone and the opposition. No way. How can they solve this mess, remains to be seen. God bless Dr. Sylvia Blyden. To be continued.

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