HRCSL calls for investigation and sacking of police officers who stripped female protester

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 April 2021:

There has been resounding condemnation of Sierra Leone police brutality,  following Monday’s protest by students at the IPAM campus which became violent, as heavily armed police officers fired teargas and smoke bombs.

A young female student – Fatmata Binta Jalloh was stripped by police officers and arrested, prompting calls for the sacking of those police officers involved, and the immediate release from detention of Fatmata Binta Jalloh and four other students who have been refused bail.

Yesterday, the country’s Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) published its report into the violence, calling for an investigation and the sacking of police officers found wanting of professional misconduct.  This is what the report says:

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) is concerned about the spontaneous violence that erupted on 12th April, 2021 between protesting students and the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) Campus following the publication of a partial list of would-be graduates published by the college administration on the said date.

As a statutory institution mandated to protect and promote human rights of all in Sierra Leone, HRCSL has been monitoring both mainstream and social media and has subsequently engaged key stakeholders to fully grasp the factors that led to the protest.

The HRCSL undertook a fact-finding mission to the college campus (IPAM), the Central Police Station and the Kingtom Police Hospital. Engagements were held with the Students Union Executive and other students who are not necessarily members of the Student Union Government, the Deputy Registrar, Examination Officer, the Senior Assistant Finance Officer, Lockup and Crime Officers at Central Police Station, and the Medical Superintendent at the Kingtom Police Hospital. HRCSL also engaged detained students at the Central Police Station and visited one female student at the Kingtom Police Hospital.

During the above engagements, HRCSL noted the following findings:

• That a partial list of would-be graduands was published by the college administration which contained about 350 names when over a thousand students are expected to graduate.

• Following the protest, a second list was published later in the afternoon but was also found to be faulty as students who had left the University were also included on the list while the actual students were not listed.

• There were issues of missing grades and also reference examinations which were in fact only conducted on Saturday with only four days left to the proposed graduation ceremonyPage 2 of 4 scheduled for the 14th April, 2021. In addition, there were issues of outstanding reference exams to be taken.

• There were students who were yet to fulfill their financial obligations with the University.

• There were insufficient academic gowns in supply by the college administration which some students had already paid for and this further infuriated the students.

• The students failed to exhaustively engage the relevant stakeholders in the university and then took the laws into their hands.

• The police on the other hand failed to apply professionalism in handling the situation on their arrival at the scene. For instance, a female student was seen manhandled by several police officers as captured in a video widely circulated on social media.

• Five students were arrested and detained including the female student mentioned above.

• There were delays in the publication of sessional and final results which created uncertainty on the part of the students as to their status / level in their respective courses of study.

• There were also delays in the verification of entry requirements / results.

• That the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) had agreed with the Academic staff of the University to improve the conditions of service of lecturers with an increment of 75% to be applied incrementally effective end of April 2021.

Recommendations: In light of the above findings, HRCSL recommends as follows:

To the IPAM Administration / USL:

• That the University should postpone the graduation ceremony until the outstanding issues have been substantially settled so as to avoid any further incident and give opportunity to parents and sponsors to witness the graduation of their children / beneficiaries.

• That exam scripts should be marked on time and grades published to allow students know their status as they progress from one level to the other and final grades verified and published way before date of graduation.Page 3 of 4

• That both academic and administrative staff should endeavor to be professional in ensuring that students’ grades do not go missing. To this end, the University should ensure that the grading system is digitized as it obtains in many other Universities.

• With the conditions of service being improved by government, HRCSL expects quality service delivery to the students from lecturers and the administration as a whole.

To the Sierra Leone Police (SLP):

• The SLP should immediately release all the students in their custody on bail pending any investigations.

• That time and again, HRCSL calls on the SLP to be always professional in their line of duty and refrain from using excessive force in quelling down riots and protests.

• That extreme care be exercised in dealing with women and girls at all times in such situations.

• That the SLP should immediately institute an internal investigation into the conduct of those police officers who were seen in the video manhandling a female student and if found wanton should immediately be dismissed from the SLP and this should be communicated to the public.

To the Students:

• Students should use existing structures within and without the university (eg. HRCSL) in seeking redress and should always resist any temptation to take the law into their hands. To this end, students are admonished to read Section 13 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 with specific reference to paragraph (j) which states as follows: “Every citizen shall … render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order.”

• Students should treat their academic work with the seriousness it deserves and endeavor to meet their financial obligations on time which they normally sign up to upon admission.

In light of the findings and recommendations above, HRCSL unreservedly condemn every form of violence and unprofessional conduct that have the potential to undermine the enjoyment of Page 4 of 4 fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 and other regional and international instruments.

HRCSL calls on the police in particular to exercise restraints as professionals whenever engaging the public as required by ‘UN Guiding Principles on the Use of Firearms’ and also the ‘UN Code of Conducts for Law Enforcement Officials’.

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone remains committed to the protection and promotion of human rights of all throughout Sierra Leone.”

7 Comments

  1. Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) of course has a duty to advocate for all citizens. On the other hand the police has the right to protect lives and properties of our citizens. But unfortunately the reality in my beloved country is, LAWLESSNESS is almost uncontrollable. The last defense to prevent our nation from another ANARCHY is our security apparatus as was evidenced during our 11 years civil war. Peaceful protests should be acceptable in our society but every patriotic Sierra Leonean should frown at RIOT demonstrations based on the fact that “Your Rights End Where Mine Begin”.

    Personally, I am 100% in support of our citizens doing anything they want in our Free and Democratic society- until their actions infringe on the freedom of others.At that point, the police ought to intervene to maintain LAW AND ORDER, otherwise the situation risks spiraling out of control to the extent where tougher measures will become warranted. I personally do not believe that those police officers left their families in the morning with a plan to “strip a young lady”, but there are consequences to resisting arrest which even in the USA (which is the most democratic country in the world) usually resulted in fatalities. I hope and pray that peace will continue to reign in our country based on the fact that the latest Peace Index rated Sierra Leone as the 2nd in West Africa behind Ghana, 5th in Africa and 46th in the World.

  2. Its good that the Sierra Leone commission for human rights, comes out and condemn this act of police brutality. When you realise this pattern of behaviour from the police is nothing new, since they have never been held accountable for their actions. It seems to me, no one has taught them in the police academy the role of the police in our communities they police up and down the country. Last year, we witnessed the police breaking into the home of Dr Blyden. Hadn’t it been for the respected Sierra Leone police uniform, you will be forgiven to think they were street burglars from “Devil Hole”. We saw them in Makeni during the generator crisis.

    We saw them at Pademba road during the so called prison riot. We saw them two days ago stripping Ms Bah. But there is a pattern here which the public failed to notice. When it comes to SLPP supporters directed by Bio, running riot in Kono, more recently in Freetown, it was an eye opener to see the Sierra Leone police practicing the use of restraint and actually begging rampaging SLPP thugs to stop their activities.

    The Belgian traders were literally pleading with the police to intervene on their behalf. Now when you say the Sierra Leone police has become part of Bio’s militia you are not off the mark. We need to reform this once respected institution. Bio has turned it to an armed wing of the SLPP party. And for the interest of peace and justice, it needs to stop.

  3. “Let us not destroy the good in us by cowardly submitting to the evil that is in society”. Six are the duties of a teacher: to instruct the students in new knowledge; to correct the errors of his existing knowledge; to develop his mentality in a balanced way; to restrain him from committing evil; to encourage him compassionately; and to open his path by active help. Students, that man is most likely to become and best fitted to become your teacher to whom you are drawn by attraction not so much by his experience and wisdom, his goodness and power shows an early sign of relationship in other lives on earth. Teacher, the personal trust and intellectual dependence which this relationship generates are themselves signs that you have been a teacher.

    Students, it is best to accept the leading of this attraction, for the man under whom you have continously worked before is the man whom destiny will allot you to pick up same work again. You may postpone the opening up of such a relationship again but in the end you can’t avoid it. Destiny will have the last word in such a matter.

    The findings and recommendations of the HRCSL is timely and sincerely in order for peace to reign.

  4. We expect the Hands off our Girls arrangement to rise sharply to this occasion in a timely manner…fire those uneducated police bandits to go back to their fishing village or go farm their fallow lands.

  5. In Sierra Leone – the acronym agencies are reactionaries. They do absolutely nothing till the rain falls. We don’t need reactionaries. We need actors that have the capability to offer advice to government and forestall trouble. All they’re doing is securing their funding

  6. The police in Sierra Leone have become so reckless, they need to be disbanded and retrained. They do not even know when to use tear gas. We are lucky there was no fatalities reported but their use of such weapons is becoming a cause for concern.
    Six senior police officers are being identified to have caused all this demise: Brima Jah, sizer – to mention but two names. These officers are to be charged to court and imprisoned for oath subversion.

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