In Sierra Leone – Dr Sylvia Blyden subjected to torture, degrading and inhumane treatment in police custody

Pipul Pikin Network: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 May 2020:

Prominent Sierra Leone activist, journalist and philanthropist, Dr Sylvia Blyden was arrested on Friday, 1 May 2020, at 1:15pm (SL time) and taken in to custody, after being holed up in her home for several hours since morning under armed security barricade.

We note an alarming pattern of the Police Force deploying reckless and indiscriminate tactics, including while arresting Dr Blyden at her home, as well as exclusive evidence of torture and other ill-treatment.

The Police forcefully entered the building with a team of engineers to break into the residence of Dr Blyden’s where she was holed-up. While at the CID, Dr Blyden’s phones and laptop were forcefully taken-away from her.

We note that no protective measures from COVID-19 were taken during the interrogations and statement taking that lasted for at least several hours. The driver who had gone to deliver stuff to Dr Blyden was also unlawfully detained last night.

We note that Dr Blyden has been held in tight conferment, sleeping on the bare floor,  without food or medication in a cold and filthy cell without proper clothing.

CHARGES and BAIL

Although no formal charges have been served on Dr Blyden, we, however note that Dr Blyden was arrested for interrogation by the police, on sham allegations stemming from the exercise of her right to freedom of speech and human rights activism since 2018.

Police said they were investigating messages of incitement sent in a WhatsApp group by Dr Blyden. None of these allegations are legitimate offences under international law since they criminalise free speech.

Dr Blyden has been detained solely for expressing her views online and offline and/or calling for good governance and better measures to tackle Covid-19.

The Police have deliberately  delayed taking the full statement from Dr Blyden with a view to  detain her for a longer period than allowed by law. Dr Blyden was refused bail, without legal justification.

The presumption of release pending trial is based on the presumption of innocence, which is enshrined in international law and recognised in the Sierra Leone constitution.

We call on the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), the Sierra Leone Bar Association, the Human Rights Commission and other national and international human rights bodies to take action to ensure the human right of Dr Blyden is fully respected ad protected.

LEGAL REPRESENTATION

We appreciate that a team of lawyers have agreed to provide legal assistance to Dr Blyden and are supporting her. However, we note that some lawyers and family members were refused access to meet Dr Blyden today.

This is clearly a violation of her human rights. The Pipul Pikin Network has therefore consulted and retained the legal services of a number of lawyers including the veteran international human rights lawyer Melron Nicol-Wilson Esq, former defence Counsel and Case Manager at the United Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone and former Ombudsman of the Republic of Sierra Leone to provide legal assistance to Dr Blyden. Melron has a  long standing reputation as a human rights defender for many years, and with a good track record of representing clients regardless of political, tribal or economic status.

It is unfortunate that at the time when the international community is focused on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sierra Leone authorities are investing time in accelerating arrest and dentition of activists and journalists.

By arresting and imprisoning Dr Blyden, the authorities are not only punishing Dr  Blyden for her free speech, but also endangering her health given the risks of a COVID 19  in prison.

We condemn any unlawful tactics by state authorities who may want to use the State of  Emergency laws and the  COVID 19 lockdown in Freetown to continue to detain Dr Blyden in custody without charge or the right to bail.

We fear that Dr Blyden may spend additional days in prison due to the current State of Emergency  in the country.

We continue to call on President Maada Bio to take full responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of Dr Blyden.

We continue to monitor the situation, engage and share credible updates/reports with our partners and human rights bodies in Sierra Leone and in the international community including the Africa Union, Ecowas, Commonwealth, European Union and United Nations system.

We will keep you all posted as things evolve.

6 Comments

  1. Have we not learnt any lessons from the past? Is there not a new road upon which we can travel?

  2. It’s unfortunate that people are not seeing things as they are or from the right direction. Sierra Leone and the safety and peace of his people must be everyone’s concern and not individual personal gain. This is not time for politic for goodness sake. It’s time to contribute in building up this nation. Let the people of Sierra Leone enjoy peace and gain from our resources, the minerals and fertile land. Let us comport ourselves and respect our leaders God has appointed.

  3. Interesting comments. I wonder how we would find a solution to sierra Leone’s numerous problems when all we get from a vast majority of people is either direct or indirect support for a political party than for Sierra Leone when discussing issues of national concern. I so long for the day when Sierra Leoneans all would only talk politics when elections are just round the corner and then join efforts with whosoever comes in as president to develop our beloved land after any national election.

    What we as a people do is take sides in lieu of addressing issues in a non-political fashion. In my humble opinion Sierra Leone can only develop when we have a government that is ready to rule fairly (I’m not saying the current government is not ruling fairly- that’s left with citizens to decide hopefully in 2023 – I’m not concerned about that here) and people who are ready to be ruled fairly. Sadly, but truly, this is not currently the case in my beloved Land.

    I’m by no means perfect and will never be but I know and reckon that respect for the next man starts when I learn to accommodate and respect his views and then give him convincing reasons to listen to my views if mine is contrary to his. Simply put, Sierra Leoneans need to discuss issues and not personalities – directly or indirectly.

    • Sorry to interrupt you Mr Peter Snell. I respect your views, but you seem to be “hors jeux” concerning the present political crisis in the making, caused by the reckless and barbaric behavior of President Bio’s presidential security guards. Also, we are not talking about anything here other than, the prison break that was never broken. It was all “dodgy hanky panky”. Indirect or direct support, is not part of the equation debate here. No one is going to sit down with a brutal Bio lead SLPP, to discuss solutions about slaughtering innocent prisoners and prison officers at Pademba Road Prisons, by President Bio’s presidential security guards.

      It must be a matter for the International Court of Justice to sort out. The Bio lead SLPP must GO. Concerning 2023, our strategy of election anxiety is working. You are right to mention it. Thanks. Everyone can now see it. People are just two nervous and wavering on all angles, thinking about 2023. Many Bio lead SLPP supporters are also worried, about which party to support, thinking of the reprisal after an APC lead coalition, which is definitely going to happen in 2023 and the unpopularity of President Bio and his Bio lead SLPP.

      I say to those voters, don’t worry, we will make sure, that reprisals never happen, as in the case with the Bio lead SLPP. There will be no past JUNTA at the helm of authority. That I will guarantee everyone. You are free to be a member of any other political party you wish. What a blood week, a bloody fire in hell, a blood in the hands of Bio lead SLPP and a bloody and dark day for Sierra Leone, prisoners and prison officers. God bless Mr Peter Snell. May the souls of all those who perished under the brutal and barbaric gunfire of President Bio’s presidential guards, R.I.P.

  4. Up to now there is no public statement from the government about the riots at Pademba road prison and about the condition of the imprisoned people – Blyden, Conteh and the others? What about statements from parties besides SLPP and APC or their supporters? Are they in fear?

  5. A safe exit must be the only option on the table for President Bio, for the Bio lead SLPP’s barbaric slaughtering of our citizens at Pademba Road Prisons, by President Bio’s security guards, Mr. Raymond Kartewu. Many thanks Raymond for that common sense suggestion. But, make no mistake. We will not relent in our efforts, to criticise the Bio lead SLPP and some of his unscrupulous and rogue Administration/SLPP party officials, for killing people in cold blood. We will make sure, that the criminal culprits, responsible for this cold blooded murder of our prisoners and prison officers face justice. It’s now unbearable.

    How long could Sierra Leoneans be patient, seeing people been murdered and the culprits getting away with it? Many Sierra Leoneans have died under this Presidents two year rule than the entire ten year APC rule of former president Ernest Bai Koroma. That is alarming and has to stop. Thank you very much Mr. Raymond Kartewu and may God bless you. May the almighty God help heal all the wounded in that slaughtering spree by President Bio’s security guards and may the souls of all those who died, R.I.P.

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