LAJ appears in court but denied bail as human rights commission speaks out

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 June 2022:

Sierra Leone’s popular musician Alhaji Amadu Bah aka LAJ who was arrested and had his dreadlocks cut off by police in Freetown appeared in Pademba Road Court No. 1, Freetown yesterday 20th June, 2022 to answer a four counts charge including; three counts of robbery with violence contrary to Section 23 (1)b of the Larceny Act, 1916 as repealed and replaced by Section 2, Act No. 16 of 1971 and assault occasioning actual bodily harm contrary to Section 47 of the Offences Against The Person Act, 1861.

According to the particulars of offence, LAJ on Sunday, 12th June, 2022 at Leonco Fuel Station, Main motor road, Congo Cross in the Freetown Judicial District in the Western Area of the Republic of Sierra Leone, with intent to steal, robbed Francess Wilson of the sum of Two Million and Ninety Thousand Leones in Sierra Leone currency and immediately after such robbery did use personal violence on Francess Wilson.

Presiding Principal Magistrate Sahr E. Kekura granted access to LAJ and ordered medical treatment following requests from his Lawyers.

LAJ was represented in court by a battery of Lawyers led by M.P. Mami who made an application for bail pursuant to Section 79 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1965.

The case was prosecuted by State Counsel, Y.I. Sesay who vehemently opposed to bail on grounds that offences of Which the Accused LAJ is charged to Court are very serious offences and that he will not only interfere with the Witnesses for the State, but that he will jump bail.

Magistrate Kekura refused bail and adjourned the hearing to tomorrow Wednesday, 22nd June, 2022.

In the meantime, the country’s Human Rights Commission yesterday issued the following press statement about the treatment of LAJ by the police’ This is what they said:

“The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) is the statutory body charged with the mandate to protect and promote human rights of all in the country, no matter an individual’s circumstance or belief. Through its daily review of both traditional and the emerging media HRCSL has been following with great concern recent encounter between the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and one Alhaji Amadu Bah aka LAJ (hereinafter referred to as LAJ) which said encounter started in a gas station at Congo Cross and ended up at Up-Gun in Freetown where LAJ was arrested on 12th June, 2022. A video footage showing extracts of the incident shows LAJ having altercations with the police while another voice in the vehicle was heard in an outburst of ethnic diatribes and abuses.

“On 16th June 2022, HRCSL received a complaint from Mr. Ibrahim Bah, father of one Alhaji Amadu Bah aka LAJ alleging that his four sons, including LAJ were arrested and detained at the OSD Headquarters, Brookfields, Freetown. He further alleged that they were denied access to family visit, access to legal representation and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, amongst others.

“The Commission conducted preliminary investigation and went to engage the police and to assess the conditions under which the suspects were detained. The Commission was denied access to the facility and the suspects. The Commission later learned that twelve (12) suspects had been charged to court in relation to this matter on allegations of disorderly behavior and other public order offences but did not appear before a magistrate. HRCSL engaged the twelve (12) suspects on the court premises at Pademba Road and they alleged to have been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, torture and abuse from the police whilst in detention at OSD Headquarters aka Benghazi.

“By a Press Statement dated 18th June 2022, the SLP confirmed that LAJ was arrested and is in detention on allegations of felonious crimes; that his head was shaved like all other suspects who go through the holding detention facility where the suspect is being held as a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP); and that all rights of the suspect will be fully respected while in custody.

“HRCSL notes that since this incident occurred, social media has been awash with unwarranted and incendiary materials many of which are ethnic bigotry that have the potential to ruin the peace and security of our beloved nation.

“In light of the above, HRCSL wishes to make the following statements;

• HRCSL condemns the action of the Police in refusing access to the Commission and lawyers for the said suspect. The Commission hereby reminds the SLP that it is a statutory body mandated by Section 9 of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act, 2004 which states thus; “A member of the Commission or any person authorized in that behalf by such member, shall have access to all government offices, facilities and places of detention, including prisons, police cells, remand homes and probation facilities, in order to investigate a human rights matter initiated by the Commission or brought to the attention of the Commission as well as access to any non-classified information in government documents”.

• The SLP in their said Press Statement cited a certain SOP is being applied in the detention facility where the suspects were held. It states that: “All male suspects taken into that facility would have their hair shaved off their head, while in the custody of the holding centre” without referencing any law supporting such “modus operandi”. HRCSL considers this outfit unlawful and its practices in the instant case amount to degrading and inhumane treatment contrary to Section 20 (1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone which states thus: “No person shall be subject to any form of torture or any punishment or other treatment which is inhuman or degrading”.

HRCSL further notes that shaving of detainees must be done in compatibility with self-respect and for the purposes of good appearance of the person so detained as directed by Rule 18(2) of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners [also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules] under the rubric, Personal hygiene which states as follows:

In order that prisoners may maintain a good appearance compatible with their self-respect, facilities shall be provided for the proper care of the hair and beard, and men shall be able to shave regularly.

HRCSL therefore condemns the act of the SLP in shaving their suspects in custody who are in fact yet to stand trial without consent and without personal hygiene considerations as directed by the Nelson Mandela Rules.

• That the general public especially social media bloggers are hereby called upon to use social media productively and that while the Commission fully supports citizens to exercise their fundamental right of freedom of expression as guaranteed in Section 25(1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 (Act No.6 of 1991) (hereinafter referred to as the “Constitution”) however, any speech or expression or material that has the potential to create unrest and affect the enjoyment of other rights by peaceful and law abiding citizens cannot be supported by the Commission. HRCSL strongly abhors lawlessness and upholds and promotes patriotism and respect for the rule of law pursuant to Section 13 paragraphs (b) & (j) of the Constitution which provide as follows;

Every citizen shall – (b) cultivate a sense of nationalism and patriotism so that loyalty to the State shall override sectional, ethnic, tribal or other loyalties;

(j) render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order.

• HRCSL would like to encourage LAJ that as an entertainer with a large following, mostly young people, he must always ensure he conducts himself as a role model and should denounce anti-social behavior which sometimes puts his fans in conflict with the law.

HRCSL notes that ethnic diatribe is an offence under Section 52(1) (b) & (c) of the Cyber Security and Crime Act, 2021 and as such citizens should desist from same.

Recommendations:

1. HRCSL calls on the SLP to immediately bring before the Court Alhaji Amadu Bah aka LAJ and 12 others without any further delay for them to have their day in court as procedure demands pursuant to Section 17(3) paragraphs (a) & (b) produced hereunder for ease of reference:

“Any person who is arrested or detained in such a case as is mentioned in paragraph (e) or (f) of subsection (1) and who is not released shall be brought before a court of law—

a) within ten days from the date of arrest in cases of capital offences, offences carrying life imprisonment and economic and environmental offences; and b) within seventy-two hours of his arrest in case of other offences;”

Article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) reinforces this position of the law.

2. HRCSL hereby demands from the SLP/the OSD unhindered access to the holding facility at the OSD Headquarters in order to inspect same and engage those detained therein to ascertain whether the facility meets reasonable standards and is not a torture chamber; or alternatively, that the facility be dissolved forthwith.

3. HRCSL also calls on the public to desist from making inflammatory and inciting messages that have the potential to cause tension and unrest.

4. HRCSL hereby reminds citizens and the SLP alike of the call by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which demands for “a new culture of mutual respect, understanding and tolerance by all Sierra Leoneans for all Sierra Leoneans… and that Sierra Leoneans deserve “…security forces that are professional, disciplined and representative of all the people.” (Paragraphs 37 & 198 respectively of Vol. Two, Chapter Three of the TRC Report).

HRCSL takes this opportunity to assure the general public of its unwavering commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights of all in Sierra Leone.

 

5 Comments

  1. Unfortunately through the social media, most of us in the diaspora have consciously idolized this rapper and never paid any attention to the real victims of violence, who are the attendants of the petrol station that are lucky to be alive. Their names are yet to be published, and I believe should be compensated by citizens in the diaspora through Go Funding.
    These patriotic citizens get up every morning to serve, and the least they expect from a celebrity is THANK YOU or a decent tip, but sadly ended up with a bloody eye and hospital bills.
    Insults ( Mammy Cuss) and now violent assaults against our citizens and law enforcement officers are now fashionable in our nation.
    Let’s continue to pray for our country.
    Amen and Ameen.

  2. But let me ask this simple question if I may ask, is it true that this brother” Alhaji Ahmed Bah” (LAJ) was arrested for robbery really?, though I have no knowledge about his past records as some of us do. Then where was he gets arrested, at the gas station or was chased by the police?. I believed that this is a political seasons but at the same time we have to be very careful how we handled stuff. Today, we called Sierra Leone a lawless country under Bio gov’t, but when” Former Chief of Defense Staff Samuel Omar Williams was shot dead inside his home in Devil Hole village near the capital Freetown early Thursday morning, under APC regime; on EBK’s watch, no one says a lawless country. According to the police commander Al-Sheik Kamara, Dec. 22nd day, 2016 let’s not forget that day. Kamara said, unidentified gunmen had opened fire at Williams inside his own bedroom. That matter never been investigated and I don’t think if, SLPP tries to play politics in that.
    When APCs are in power, the Sierra Leone police force are the best law enforcements forces on earth, we need to embraced peace. I ain’t in favor the cut off, of his dreadlocks the police should have know better, but at the same time when you’re in custody, you no longer own yourself any more, just like a hostage situation. If the police feels like he was trying to hurts himself or committing suicide, using his dreadlocks hair, I believed there are other methods to use rather than cutting off his dreadlocks, restraining order should have been used instead” leg arm and cuff him up” better. I wish his immediate release to stood back on his feet. Good luck to him.

  3. Laj has fallen in the hands of his own enemies. He is going to pay dearly for that little problem; and they are going to treat him like Kamarainba.

  4. The statement from the Human Rights Commission is balanced and articulate with no indication of a politically motivated outside influence. The same cannot be said of the other press statements including that from the Bar Association. The reference to Mr Bah’s forgotten responsibility as a role model for the youth is highly relevant and central to the tenet of the debate.

    Not surprisingly, influential women have been quiet on the issue. No concerned mother will be inclined to defend what our protagonist represents. These are delicate times for our country. Responsible institutions across board should be seen to be sincere in their defence of human rights. We hear state capture of police from important institutions that themselves may have been captured by politicians and ethnic affiliates.

  5. These are strong charges against this rapper who I personally believe should be a role model for our citizens especially the youths. How difficult should the process of purchasing fuel from an attendant be , who is only trying to earn his or her living during this difficult time?. I thought this rapper was under probation because of his past records. This is complete Lawlessness.
    The mixed messages sent by the Police about the controversial incident of the cutting of his dreadlocks is rather unfortunate. The reality is that most people are aware of the Special Operating Procedures ( SOP) of the ISU or SSD .
    They are like the SWAT team in the USA, but should try to be more professional.
    Unfortunately, tribalism and hate messages are now normal based on the fact that the APC party has nothing positive to offer our citizens, now they are applying “LEVEL THREE”, which is one of their 99 tactics.
    Finally, I was expecting that the violation of probation rules should automatically result in at least 15-30 days jail sentence. The link below shows that this controversy about cutting hair also exists in the USA: https://www.pilotonline.com/news/article_908400d5-f696-53c1-ac5e-8d96831fddab.html

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