Open letter to President Julius Maada Bio about official report on the massacre of prisoners

Concerned Sierra Leoneans: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 July 2020:

In our press release dated 4th May 2020, we accentuated our horror and concern over the brutal intervention of heavily armed State House Presidential guards who opened fire on unarmed prisoners and prison guards with assault rifles, in an attempt to quell an alleged prison break at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 29th April 2020.

Although rumours were abound that the death toll was in excess of forty, of what many perceived as a ‘prison massacre’, the Minister of Information Mohamed Rahman Swarray claimed, on 29th April 2020, that there were only seven fatalities; five prisoners and two prison guards.

Ten weeks after the unfortunate killings at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre, the government now claims there were thirty one fatalities; thirty prisoners and one prison guard.

These disparities, inconsistencies and somewhat disjointed accounts of the incident by the Government of President Julius Maada Bio, has left more questions than answers – prompting us to call for a full Independent Public Inquiry.

In this regard and pursuant to Principle Six of the body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 43/173 of the 9 December 1988 which states that, “No person under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. “No circumstance whatever may be invoked as a justification for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment.”

The people of Sierra Leone deserve to know the truth, so do the families of all those whose lives were brutally cut short on that fateful day, and only a full Independent Public Inquiry led by outside bodies with no special interests in the matter, such as  Amnesty International, UN Human Rights Watch, African Union and other such organisations, will give credence to the findings.

In light of the above, we are therefore, calling on President Julius Maada Bio and his government to make provisions and set a date for the immediate commencement of a full Independent Public Inquiry. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Hoping to hear from you on the above at your earliest convenience and thanking you in advance for your kind considerations.

Sincerely, yours
Concerned Sierra Leoneans

1. First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK
2. Minister for Africa, UK
3. Secretary of State for International Development, UK
4. UN Secretary General
5. Amnesty International, UK
6. ECOWAS President
7. UK High Commissioner, Sierra Leone
8. US Ambassador, Sierra Leone
9. African Union
10. US State Department
11. Her Majesty Opposition Party leader
12. Chairman of the UK Conservative Party
13. Commonwealth Secretariat
14. Speaker of the House of Commons
15. President of the UK Supreme Court
16. European Union
17. Harriet Harman, Chairman of the UK Human Rights Committee, UK Parliament
18. Neil Coyle MP
19. Leaders of the Liberal Democrats
20. First Minister of Scotland
21. First Minister of Wales
22. First Minister of Northern Ireland


  1. I personally believe that supporters of the destructive APC party are very unhappy (just like the way they are unhappy with the lower death rate of the coronavirus victims as compared to the Ebola), at the outcome of the riots. They were hoping and praying for total destruction of our capital city once again, as was the case of the first term of the late President Kabba.

    The international community knows the history of our nation and they have invested lives and monies in our country and they do not want our nation to return to those dark days; thanks to our gallant security, we are now enjoying peace. I hope Paola Conteh will now spend his 2 years sentence peacefully in JAIL if his defence team loses the appeal. I was also hoping for this so-called concerned citizen to send this once again bogus letter to President Trump.

  2. As a concerned Sierra Leonean, the most important issue to investigate should be the circumstances surrounding the prison outbreak saga, that had the potential to destabilize the Government in order to free Paolo Conteh. The threatening audios on social media were alarming to say the least. We all know what happened during Johnny Paul Koroma’s prison escape and the overthrow of Tejan Kabbah’s regime. Thanks to our gallant security personnel at State house for their rapid response to reverse the potential calamity. Sierra Leone will never go back to the dark days of armed rebellion.

    • Indeed Mr Fatorma Gabba. “Sierra Leone will never go back to the dark days of investigating the circumstances surrounding the prison outbreak saga.” But, Sierra Leone must be a member of the modern-day civilised world of nations to investigate the slaughtering of our prisoners and prison officers as the noble Stargazer said. Do you hear that and agree with me, Mr Fatorma Gaba? Dictatorship, barbarity, unlawful incarceration, violation of human rights etc are now obsolete ideas and must be eradicated. Thanks, Mr Ftorma Gabba and welcome to this glorious platform. God bless you. TBC.

  3. Fatmata Sawaneh, Lawrence Leema, the head of the military. The recently released prison report, failed to address the real question everyone wants to know including the family of the people that lost their loved ones at Pademba Road prison facility. What were those three shady characters doing at the facility starting from 3am? I didn’t read anything in the report about their role that day. We need an independent and verifiable account of what happened. If anything, the state owes the families that lost their loved ones the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    At the end if they know the truth, it will be a small comfort for them to lessen the pain of grief. In the absence of that their double whammy nightmare continues. These three half witted characters, none of their job description warrant their presence there. Secondly, Who ordered the army to open fire on unarmed prisoners? To blame it on overcrowding, COVID19, and court hearings cancellation, is a white wash. Apart from COVID19, the other two have always existed. We had Ebola that killed more Sierra Leoneans, than COVID19, but we never witnessed this sort of tragedy.

    I take it given the behaviour of these three amigos is like to them we never had a civil war. Maybe they never lost family members in that brutal war. They just have to drive around in their new SUVs, to see people who suffered amputations, and young men and women suffering the mental effect of the war. Maybe that will remind them and anyone who thinks like them, about the dark history of our country. To me, these characters are the ones that are undermining president Bio’s agenda for our country. He should order an investigation on them, and hold them to account. They might deny their actions, but these three individuals epitomise everything that has gone wrong in Sierra Leone.

    • The report says that there are 23 remains at the mortuary to be claimed. So talking about 21 one is a bit confusing. Prison riots everywhere has never been a kids glove to play with. Hard core criminals facing murder cases and life imprisonment use such opportunity to get out and continue terrorizing the populace. If there was not brutal riot, we would not be talking about this. If the rioters had respected and obeyed the first line of defense, the use of assault rifle was not in place. No the history of Pademba road jail breaks in sierra Leone, that is 25 May 1997 and 6 January 1999, the security forces had to use reasonable force to quell what was in the making for the third time.

  4. These are new times,unpredictable times and there’s a merciless Covid19 storm gathering full speed and we are all in its way,at its mercy like prisoners in the gallows waiting for an executioner to deliver the final fatal blow.Who knows for sure how and when the storm will eventually break,and what its incalculable consequences will be for our fragile world? Folks,it is exactly for this reason and other urgently critical ones that we need to get our houses quickly in order,so that we do not get caught off guard in a violent economic storm with nowhere to run and no one to turn to for help.

    The time is now,we need to start rebuilding the institutions of our country,especially the Judiciary in order to ensure that tragic incidents like the gruesome barbaric slaughtering of over 40 unarmed prisoners doesn’t just go away without someone being shackled,and held accountable – heads will have to roll.This President and his henchmen should not be allowed to get away with such a horrendous abominable crime against humanity.I totally agree,we need an Independent Public Inquiry into the root causes of what truly happened on that cursed day inside the Pademba road prisons.

    Again,SLPP operatives that were present must be called to give account and explain to the general public why strangely they were there in those ungodly hours of early morning while everyone was still home asleep in their beds.An abominable crime has been committed by the notorious SLPP and they are doing all they can – going the whole nine yards to cover it up;but rest assured that’s not gonna happen because we are going to stay with them like lions chasing foxes,on every turn they make until their end.

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