CHRDI speaks out on the arrest of opposition APC party spokesman Sidie Yahya Tunis

CHRDI: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 February 2022:

Earlier this week, the Sierra Leone Police “invited for questioning” Mr Sidie Yahya Tunis, APC’s acting publicity secretary and deputy spokesman, after an interview which he granted to Radio Democracy 98.1 “Good Morning Sierra Leone” program on February 7, 2022. The SLP deemed his statements on the radio program tantamount to “incitement”.

Mr Tunis was charged and released on Le 200 million bail and asked to report again to the CID on Monday, 14th February 2022.

Recently this is the second prominent opposition party leader that has been detained and questioned because of statements made on Radio Democracy.

As we approach the 2023 national elections, CHRDI notices with concern that the number of arrests of prominent opposition members, including prominent women, is on the rise. Here are just a few examples of these arrests:

1. In December 2021, Sierra Leone Police arrested the Leader of the Unity Party, Femi Claudius-Cole and about 20 other women who went to the CID to peacefully protest the arrest of another prominent female opposition leader, Diana Finda Konomanyi.

2. Also in December 2021, the Sierra Leone Police arrested female opposition leader, Diana Finda Konomanyi, who was questioned in connection with a video she posted on social media asking her constituents to refuse participation in the mid-term census.

3. On December 7, 2021, the Chairman of the opposition National Grand Coalition party, Dr Dennis Bright, was also invited by the Sierra Leone Police to be questioned in connection with his interview on Radio Democracy about the government’s mid-term population census. Dr Bright was released after the questioning.

4. On May 1st 2020, Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, a senior female politician to the main opposition APC party was arrested, and on May 22nd authorities charged Blyden with sedition, defamation, and “perversion of justice” over her social media posts. She was discharged after the repeal of Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965.

CHRDI has observed with grave concern an increase in the arrest and prosecution of other citizens who speak up against the government or criticize the government and the leaders at State House.

CHRDI is deeply concerned about this pattern of arrests of opposition leaders in Sierra Leone, as well as arrests of civilian people who criticize the government.

These arrests have a chilling effect on the people of Sierra Leone regarding their space to assemble freely and to freedom of expression. This pattern represents a blatant attempt to intimidate politicians and political activists and to silence the regular people who wish to express disapproval to the way the government of the day carries out its duties, promises and obligations.

At the same time, CHRDI acknowledges that freedom of speech comes with responsibilities as well, and as we approach the 2023 elections, we urge ALL political leaders and activists to criticize based on facts, evidence, and data and to remember that an irresponsible speech may have far reaching effects.

We urge all political party members/supporters to respect the laws of the land, and refrain from making irresponsible statements.

At the same time, the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police must train their staff to understand that criticizing the government does not constitute “incitement” and the fundamental role of the Police is to protect the people.

The main role of the Sierra Leone Police according to THE POLICE ACT 1964, ACT NO 7 OF 1964 Sec 4 states that; ‘ the general duties of the Police Force, which include detection of crime, apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order, protection of property and enforcement of all laws and regulations’ for which the Police Force is charged, and not to assure the people of insecurity

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – ICCPR which Sierra Leone also ratified, states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

Without freedom of expression and information, political parties’ right to association and their right to take part in public affairs amount to little or nothing. It is freedom of expression that ensures the right of political parties and their members to present their political views, values, and to take part in the political debate, etc.

The ICCPR states that:

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others. (b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.

The Government of Sierra Leone is obliged to ensure these rights. The African Court on Human and People’s Rights also states that:

1. States shall review all criminal restrictions on content to ensure that they serve a legitimate interest in a democratic society.

2. Freedom of expression should not be restricted on public order or national security grounds unless there is a real risk of harm to a legitimate interest and there is a close causal link between the risk of harm and the expression.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mandates that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

The Sierra Leone Government is obligated under these international laws and conventions to:

1) Respect the freedom of expression of all political parties, their members, and activists

2) To take positive actions to prevent non-state actors from interfering with the exercise of freedom of expression by political parties and their members, and to put in place positive measures to ensure that its own actions contribute to the free flow of information and ideas in society, e.g. through a legal framework to provide for access to information held by public bodies.

CHRDI has noted President Bio’s public statements of his country’s respect for human rights, including freedom of speech. We urge the actions of the Sierra Leone Police not to be in contradiction with President Bio’s national and international statements, and engagements which he made for the protection of the fundamental right to freedom of speech.

 

8 Comments

  1. One thing I do like about President Bio, mostly is his great love for the country Sierra Leone. A man of his word, stead fast that sacrificed his entire life to defend mama” Salone”, though he’s been characterized for so many time, but you know what? that what call a man. I believed if” SAJ Musa” was alive today, I don’t know what folks would say about him, I am so surprised at the people because his name not coming out, may his soul rests in peace.
    H.E. Dr. Breg. J.M.Bio, the President of the Republic Of Sierra Leone is one of the finest leader we ever had, may he lives for long…. Amen. He’s actually delivering his campaign messages with fair firm and consistent. Bio, just continue and go ahead with your good work, that mighty Gods is watching you neither by nor by night

  2. The CHRDI is the only credible civil society organization left in President Bio’s Sierra Leone, which has turned 100 years backwards in good governance and democracy. The CHRDI exposed President Bio as a man of mere platitudes and no political or democratic substance. He is as worse as other African despots we have had before, like Idi Amin.

  3. This is headache for every man with conscience, and a person with his/her 5 senses fellow comrades. Nearly some how three weeks ago my heart was bleeding, since we were eliminated from the” African Nations Cup” which we were suppose to win for the first time in the history. I don’t know, why people are comparing any of the African continents politics with US? can you compare someone in Coma to another who is already dead?. What the US former Vice President H.E Mike Pence did, and go free without a big consequence can only happens in US. Folks let APC go home and have some rests until 2053, that’s the very particular time when most of these corrupt people will no longer exists.
    The whole world knew the enemies of this country, some people just wanted to own Sierra Leone as if it belong to them, folks this country is ours. Later

  4. Mr. Jalloh, I’m just a normal citizen who has never joined a political party, Facebook or any WhatsApp forum to spread “propaganda”. For the past years, I have only expressed my opinions on this credible Newspaper based on the fact that they have always exposed the good, bad and ugly of any party in power. Our Criminal investigation Department (CID) is an independent institution like the FBI in the USA, based on the fact that they have investigated members of all major political parties including Lawyer Charles Margai for making statement. Politicians are part of our governance system even opposition, so they should be very tactical and responsible especially over the media for the stability of our nation. For example, I have listened to the APC secretary Yansaneh severally, and in my opinion, he always sounds diplomatic. I also listened to the interview of Sidi Tunis, which was conducted for the purpose of educating the public about the new constitution of the APC and to clarify about the selection clause or real democracy within their party for the upcoming 2022 local and 2023 presidential elections which is months away. But still they can’t even conduct an executive election.due to the ongoing implosion.

    The interviewers from Radio 98.1 were even shocked to know about the 3 different layers and they have to guide him to clarify which he strenuously did by sloppily stating “ Lawfully”. But my take is, the “Sass Wood” is helping reveal the dark secrets of the APC which started from Sylvia Blyden who has exposed the lifetime leader ‘s plans of sponsoring the “Mammy Cuss” machine to provoke our President and incite our citizens. Even people and leaders around the world that disagreed with President Trump have never crossed the line of disrespecting his late Mother. Normalizing “Mammy Cuss” is gradually destroying the MORAL fabric of our society. But unfortunately, some people call it “ Freedom of Speech”.

    Lets continue to hope and pray to the Almighty for the APC to embrace democracy within rather than selection, Corruption and Violence.

    • Thanks, Mr Fallay, I think both me and you and everyone else that expressed their opinions in this forum, is doing so with the express aim of making our country better for all of us and our families .After all we only have one country and one flag. And is a unitary state, which makes it easier to govern. I totally respect your stance you take. And I respect your consistency. Spare a thought for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the divisions that exists in that country. We have to have this debates because is the only safty valves available to us to express ourselves in a way other countries in our region can only dream of. We remain one of few countries in the ECOWAS region where we can proudly say the transfer of power from one political party to the other has always been peaceful. And long may it continue. It may not be perfect and is still working in progress , but our country is miles ahead in respecting the principle of one man one vote and majority carries the vote. I know once bitten twice shy is the analogy at worst being applied to the present leadership of the APC party.

      To me there is the old APC party that was brought to a ignominious end by the NPRC military junta for which Bio was part of in the 1990s.And today we have the reincarnated APC party that was born again after the end of the civil war and the Lome peace accord . In other words we cannot use the same brush to tar the present generation of the APC leadership party with the diabolical and corrupt acts of the Stevens and Momoh government of the 1978 one party state. The old and new are completely different.If Mr Tunis expressed his views on the air waves, the ruling SLPP should also be granted an audience to express themselves to counter his arguments with out restoring to the Sierra Leone police acting as referees on political matters in our country.

      The same principle applied to the present SLPP leadership. We cannot judge their actions based on the SLPP of Sir Milton Margai. So for us, holding this public debates which ever part of the political spectrum you support is good for our country. There are laws against advocates of political violence and promoting divisions in our country. The judiciary should be doing their job to protect us from such individuals.

  5. The CHRDI offers a correct diagnosis of what is wrong with the current administration – Bio’s increasingly autocratic rule, in which political dissent and criticism are given short shrift by way of police intimidation and brutality. The Human Rights Organisation identifies exactly a glaring dissonance between what the President says to the international community about his commitment to the principle of freedom of speech and what he actually does about it in practice. In other words, the CHRDI is saying if indirectly so, that our dear leader who is so outspokenly wedded to the idea of the absolute importance of freedom of speech and other human rights issues, is not to be trusted entirely. He speaks with his tongue in his cheek. Indeed, what he gives with one hand he takes back directly and readily with the other.

    Clearly, if Bio was wholeheartedly committed to translating into action his discourse on freedom of speech, he, his government and party, one would have thought, would immediately take to airwaves themselves to give back as much as they get from the APC Publicity Secretary and Spokesman. We would then see democracy in action; see the right to free speech being exercised by one party being directly and immediately confronted and countered by the right to free speech being exercised by another party. Sierra Leonean voters would as a result judge for themselves who to believe and give their votes to on election day.

    The choice of sending the state security forces to intimidate and silence political opponents when you have exclusive control over those forces is both a desperate and dastardly act. It is a mark of paranoia and cowardice. More importantly, it underlines the current administration’s inability to understand that what we need right now as a country that is still reeling from the devastation of a civil war that ended twenty years ago, is a politics of ‘jaw jaw’, not ‘war war’. A war of words and minds by all means and at all times. That is democracy for you by another name. Not a war involving physical harm caused by police violence, designed to neutralise or eliminate unarmed political opponents. That sort of war is a recipe for national disaster as it has the potential to send our country back headlong into the abyss of mayhem and bloodshed that characterised those very dark years stretching from 1991 to 2002.

  6. Mr Fallay with all due respect, you cannot compare the toxi politics of the United States of America and Sierra Leone one sided political debates of you either shut up or you put up mentality that currently exists in Sierra Leone. For instance no elected or senior members of the Republic party can claim to have being targeted by Joe Binden and his administration. Those conspiracy theorist that pedalled fake news, and supporters of fromer president Trump, that led up to the January sixth attack, believed the then vice president of the United States Mike Pence have the right to overturn the election during the certification process of the electoral college votes. Recently he held a news conference and reaffirmed he did the right thing for his country. Because as he put it, despite all the pressures he was under, he obyed the constitution of the United States and did what he was supposed to do on the day. To tabulate the electoral college votes and confirmed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president of the United states.So here the institutions that are setup to stop any one dreaming of turning the United States to a dictatorship was put to rest.

    Compare that to the ejection of ten APC elected members of Parliament after the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone, by the Sierra Leone police, that is responsible for law and order. Here the institutions that are setup to uphold the rule of law and protect the constitution of Sierra Leone failed us all. We have seen this happening not once but every day under Bio’s dictatorship. The judiciary and the police are used as blunt instruments to suppressed decent in Sierra Leone. I can’t help but think after reading your comments, which you are entitled to, and I respect, which what freedom of speech is all about, I have now concluded you are not interested in facts but proganda in defending this Bio government at whatever cost to your learned person.

    Once again take a look on YOUTUBE how” KUSH “is killing youngsters in Sierra Leone. Is a BBC Eye on Africa report about today’s life for young people in Sierra Leone. It comes with graphic images and is followed by a disclaimer warning. Now after reading your comments, I have my own headaches. Telling us black is white, white is black, for failing to express our admiration for Bio’s government, is not only an insult to our intelligence, it exposed a deep divide in our country. We are all looking at the same mirror but with different interpretation. You cannot compare a twenty trillions economy, to Sierra Leone’s economy that even doesn’t reach the threshold of Harvard University’s yearly budget.

  7. I personally believe that this statement is timely for the benefit of our nation. Strangely enough, Sierra Leoneans living in the USA have been going through double jeopardy based on the fact that since both parties that lost their recent Presidential elections ( the Republicans and the APC ) are still in denial. Unfortunately, both the Democratic and SLPP parties are under tremendous pressure to prevent any repeat of January 6 which are both recorded as the saddest days for democracy in both countries.
    Propaganda ( spreading lies) and Incitement are not “Freedom of Speech” even in the United States which is considered as the model of democracy around the world, and there are consequences for those actions for the benefit of our nation. Since some names have been cataloged about the investigation conducted by our gallant Criminal investigation Department (CID), the link below also shows the names of Propagandists who have been investigated in the USA: https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/10/politics/list-january-6-subpoenas/index.html

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