Abdul Malik Bangura: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 November 2018:
The government of Sierra Leone is being sued at the Country’s Supreme Court for allegations of serious violations of fundamental human rights, said to have been committed by Nigerian troops in 1998-2000 against innocent Sierra Leoneans, during the country’s civil war.
Victims are demanding a compensation of $100,000 (one hundred thousand dollars) each.
According to the Plaintiff Statement of Case, the Government of Sierra Leone has been sued for violating the fundamental human rights of the victims as enshrined in Chapter 3 of the Sierra Leone Constitution.
Paramount among the violations allegedly committed by the Nigerian troops under the guidance of the SLPP government of Ahmed Tejan Kabba were rape, torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention and murder.
The Sierra Leone government is being sued because the Nigerian troops at the time were incorporated into the Sierra Leone army, and placed under the direct command of the Nigerian military leader – Brigadier Maxwell Khobe as Sierra Leone’s Army Chief of Staff.
This meant that the then SLPP government of the former President Ahmed Tejan Kabba (1996-2007) was in control of the Nigerian troops, rather than under the command of ECOWAS.
“If Khobe had been an ECOWAS or ECOMOG officer it would have been impossible for him to accept the appointment without running foul of Article 20 of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS 1993. That Article stipulates that an officer of the community, in the performance of his duties, owes his loyalty entirely and is accountable only to the Community,” Abass Bundu, former Executive Director of ECOWAS and former Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone is quoted in the Plaintiff’s statement of case.
The statement of case in the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone further added: “The plaintiff contends that the decision of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to appoint General Khobe as Sierra Leone’s Chief of Defense Staff, and General Khobe’s acceptance of the same, demonstrates that Nigerian forces operating in Sierra Leone at the time relevant to the plaintiff’s claim, were doing so qua the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone and subordinate to the Commander in Chief and President of Sierra Leone.”
The statement further cited the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone. In its findings, the TRC states: “While the mandate of the Nigerian-led force was specifically confined to that of ceasefire monitoring group, ECOMOG increasingly came to play the role of the government’s defense force. It took instructions and directions from the executive of the Sierra Leone Government and some of its military officers issued orders and commands on behalf of the Government… The Commission finds that ECOMOG was the surrogate national army from the points of its arrival in February 1998.”
Meanwhile, the Africa Bar Association (AfBA) has assured the human rights lawyers taking up this case of its fullest support, whilst the current Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone – Dr. Priscilla Schwartz is the defendant in this case before the country’s Supreme Court.
This is the statement made by the Africa Bar Association (AfBA):
“The African Bar Association (AFBA) has received a very strong Petition from Lead Counsel representing the Victims, Dato’ Shyamala Alagendra regarding allegations of Gross Human Rights Violations and Crimes against humanity committed by members of the Nigerian Armed Forces as part of the ECOWAS Intervention Force (ECOMOG) drafted to intervene in the civil conflict that engulfed Sierra Leone between 1997 and 2000.
“The Petition is supported by compelling video evidence and witness testimony of summary executions, torture, cruel treatment, arbitrary detention and sexual abuse of Sierra Leonean civilians. Some of the violations included in the Petition were also featured in a public documentary “Cry Freetown” produced by Sorious Samura.
“AFBA expresses grave concern over these apparent serious violations against civilians. Given the gravity of the allegations and the extreme nature of suffering that has been allegedly inflicted on civilians, the AFBA has decided to intervene in this matter and consider various options of redress on behalf of the victims.
“AFBA assures the Victims and Lead Counsel that it will do everything possible to ensure Justice is done, if investigations confirm the said atrocities.”