Campaign group urges security forces to refrain from using unnecessary force

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 March 2018:

Reports of violence at yesterday’s elections in Sierra Leone were very few. But those demanding zero tolerance for electoral violence are calling for the security forces to show maximum restraint and ensure neutrality in enforcing the law.

Civil rights group – the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has today issued this statement:

“CHRDI has been following, particularly through its Freetown Office in Sierra Leone, the processes relating to multiparty elections in Sierra Leone which were conducted on March 7, 2018. CHRDI welcomes the peaceful and orderly conduct of the casting of the votes and commends the people of Sierra Leone for their enthusiastic and orderly participation in casting their votes.

“CHRDI is however concerned about reports of statements and actions that may interfere with the processing of votes or which may cast doubt on the integrity of the process.

“CHRDI is further concerned about the reports of confrontations between the main opposition political party supporters in Brookfields and Goderich community, particularly in the Brookfields community and the resultant head injuries of two people.

“As a fundamental right of citizens guaranteed under Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) and a principal means for exercising the rights of peoples to self-determination under Article 20, of the African Charter, the Commission affirms that free and fair elections legally oblige all political actors to abide by and respect the legally established processes at all stages of the election.

“We are deeply concerned by the ongoing political tensions in Sierra Leone. We urge the country’s security forces to refrain from the use of unnecessary force against citizens exercising their democratic rights.

“According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-ICCPR, Article 25: Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in Article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.

“As part of the process of addressing these tensions and strengthening institutions, we urge Sierra Leoneans to join together to hold an immediate, sustained, and open national conversation to heal divisions between, political parties and communities.

“We encourage all Sierra Leoneans to come together at this critical moment and to work together peacefully and uphold the constitution. CHRDI, urges the Independent Electoral Bodies to process the tallying of votes with transparency and integrity and in strict compliance with the legally established requirements, including the publication of the results as quickly as possible.

“We appeal to all political actors and other sections of the public to avoid statements or any acts of violence that may further fuel the tension.

“We urge all political parties and candidates to respect the election laws and regulations and use the legal process established for resolving any disputes relating to the election processes and calls on the people of Sierra Leone to remain calm and allow the electoral process to take its legally established course without resorting to violence.

“CHRDI confirms that through an eye witness account, the police behaved appropriately in some instances and were unprofessional in many other areas. They were seen brutally beating up protesters unnecessarily.”

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