CARL calls on state actors to discharge justice with diligence following the Palo trial

Ibrahim Tommy Esq: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 July 2020:

The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) welcomes the conclusion of the trial of Retired Major Palo Conteh and two others, and particularly applauds the expeditious nature of the proceedings. (Photo above – Attorney General Schwartz).

In April, Rtd. Major Conteh was arraigned on a 13-count indictment of conspiracy to commit treason or replace the government of Sierra Leone through illegal means. He was also charged with possessing a greater number of small arms than was specified in a license, and of carrying a loaded gun in a public place, contrary to the Arms and Ammunition Regulations 2014.

Two others, Retired Colonel Saa Anthony and Prince George Hughes, were charged with abetting and procuring of an offence and making a false statement under oath, contrary to the Arms and Ammunition Regulations 2014 and the Perjury Act of 1911, respectively.

The trial lasted for three months. On 1st July, 2020, a jury of seven men and five women returned a verdict of “not guilty” in respect of all the treason-related charges against Rtd. Major Conteh (Photo). He was, however, convicted on the two lesser charges and sentenced to a term of twelve months imprisonment for each count. The sentences will be served consecutively.

Messrs Sinnah and Hughes were both acquitted and discharged on all counts. Both parties have a right to appeal, and we sincerely hope that any appeals filed will be disposed of expeditiously in order to bring closure to these cases.

We would further welcome a presidential pardon for  Rtd. Major Palo Conteh or his release on bail, pending the hearing and determination of his appeal.

CARL applauds all the parties for their individual and collective contributions to ensuring a speedy conclusion of the trials. We were particularly impressed by the professionalism, brilliance and collegial spirit demonstrated by both the prosecution and defence teams: it is truly worthy of emulation.

We are profoundly proud of the bravery and commitment shown by the jurors. It was an enormous task, but we appreciate their commitment to serve the people of Sierra Leone and, more important, for doing justice by the three accused persons.

The trial reminds us of the crucial role of the jury in the fair and expeditious dispensation of justice, and we truly hope that the lessons learnt from this trial will be used to make the jury trials more effective and efficient.

We are fully aware of the significant challenges that characterize jury trials in this country, including inordinate delays caused by jury absenteeism; we believe that there are many opportunities for reforms. Rather than abolish it, the leadership of the judiciary should work cooperatively with the government and the Bar to make it more effective and responsive to the justice needs of the people of Sierra Leone.

This trial further offers an opportunity to remind the Government of Sierra Leone, and in particular the Ministry of Justice, of its critical role in ensuring justice for all. Access to justice is an important right, which is why the Government must always seek to protect the rights of all, regardless of a person’s political, economic or social status.

Accordingly, those with responsibility to investigate and prosecute must do so with diligence and integrity.

Treason is an extraordinarily serious offence, and we expect State actors to assess the evidence thoroughly and objectively to be certain that it meets the evidentiary threshold of sustaining the allegations.

Over the last four months, the family members of Rtd. Major Conteh in particular have endured serious psychological and emotional distress. His wife was also arrested and detained for several days as part of the investigation into his alleged treason. She was released without charge, and unfortunately, without compensation or an apology.

We acknowledge and respect the role of the State to enforce the law and ensure accountability for crimes. We also call on those charged with delivering justice on behalf of the State to do so while bearing in mind that their decisions and actions could undermine the administration of rule of law, public confidence in state institutions, and the protection of human rights.

We urge state officials to exercise the powers conferred on them in good faith, fairly, reasonably, and for the purpose for which they were conferred.

CARL will release a detailed report on the proceedings shortly.

About the author

Ibrahim Tommy Esq. is the Executive Director of the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) – Sierra Leone.

4 Comments

  1. TO GOD AND HE ALONE GETS THE GLORY.The “impossible” was ONLY made “possible” because of the “IM-POSSIBLE”-TRUE; LIVING GOD who invisibly intervened, interceded on Mr Conteh’s and his family’s behalf. We thank God for sparing his life. We thank EVERYONE through their individual diverse efforts, contributed in bringing this trial to a HAPPY Ending. We thank the men and women of the Jury, the Sierra Leone Judiciary system, Mr Conteh’s defence team and the President and people of Sierra Leone for a GREAT OUTCOME! God Bless Mama Salone!!! AMEN!

  2. The legendary APC cares deeply about every one of its children,not only Paolo Conteh.Paolo was the most famous face among them all,that was charged with the serious crime of Treason,which is in most cases punishable by death,and he was also a high ranking public official that had served his nation with diligent patriotism,and dedication.Even roaming Hunters pay greater attention to roaring merciless lions while out on expeditions,instead of on fragile,playful impalas.(lol)Are you answered?

  3. Thanks to Mr. Ibrahim Tommy Esq for continuously stating the names of Mr.Sinnah and Mr. Hughes because as far as the APC supporters are concerned, these two men are sub- human and their lives do not matter, but only the lives of APC politicians like Paola Conteh. May the Almighty continue to bless our President, our “Steel Lady” Attorney General, and our Credible Chief Justice to uphold the Rule Of Law by RECUSING themselves from the Jury decision.

  4. For those young Sierra Leoneans, that haven’t grasped the significance of Major Paolo Conteh’s acquittal for treason, should go and study our history. This is a watershed moment in the history of our country, because of the way this case was handled by the jury. This is the moment you paused and ask yourself what we’re you doing when it happened? This is a history making moment. 1st July will go down in history of our country,where the impossible was made possible. To put it in another context, just like the way the Americans celebrate the 16th July 1969 for the Apollo moon landing. Or South Africa release of Nelson Mandela in February 11th 1990. Better still the fall of the Berlin wall that physically divided East and West Berlin, that sow the seeds of the end of the soviet empire.

    I think with time allowed, these twelve jurors should have their statues erected in grounds of the law courts in Freetown. So future generations will share with us the appreciation of this moment of our history. With the inscription, ON THIS DAY 1ST JULY 2020 THE YEAR OF OUR LOAD IN THIS LAW COURTS A MAJOR PAOLO AFRED CONTEH WAS CHARGED WITH TREASON BY THE STATE OF SIERRA LEONE. AFTER THREE MONTHS OF TRIAL THese HONORABLE JURORS FOUND HIM NOT GUILTY AS CHARGED. THE FIRST TIME IT HAPPENED IN OUR BELOVED COUNTRY.

    This decision is reverberating amongst the Sierra Leone community around the world. Just like when Obama ordered the killing of Bin Laden, to lift the collective trauma Americans have been suffering for the 9/11 attacks. So for millions of us Sierra Leoneans this jury have done it for us in a positive way. I hope we draw our lessons. NEVER AGAIN. We truly owe it to them to sing their praise for their bold decisions. Finally, we Sierra Leoneans will say we are free from witnessing the trauma of injustice being dispense on our behalf. May God bless the jury, may God bless the republic of Sierra Leone.

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