Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 August 2022:
Police in Sierra Leone and leaders of the country’s main opposition APC party are yet to comment or confirm story on social media, showing the remains of an opposition APC media commentator, Hassan Conteh – popularly known as Evangelist Samson, being dumped by someone wearing the uniform of a security personnel. (Photo above: Police arresting suspected APC supporters after violent protest in Freetown in 2019).
Evangelist Samson who is a member and strong supporter of the APC, is alleged to have been involved in the planning and organising of the Bloody Wednesday protest which led to the killing of six police officers and at least sixteen civilians.
His video and audio recordings are popular among supporters and sympathisers of the APC, and has carved a niche for his brand of social media protests against the SLPP government and in disseminating information about the affairs of the APC.
Report of Samson’s death comes as fears grow over the return of summary executions, extra-judicial killings, and retributive justice in Sierra Leone.
Writing on her Twitter feed, opposition leader – Femi Claudius Cole said: “Death squads that carried out arbitrary Executions during the curfew period were headed and controlled by few powerful men. They must also be placed on the “most wanted list” the footage will prove their culpability.”
Critics of President Julius Maada Bio are accusing him of returning Sierra Leone to a failed State, governed by a junta regime, reminiscent of the President’s military insurrection in 1992 which deposed the elected APC government, culminating in the summary execution and assasination of over 29 civilians and security officers.
If confirmed, the assasination of Evangelic Samson will mark a new low for the government of President Bio and his SLPP party leadership, who are looking to the international community and foreign investors to bail out the economy from depression, and for keeping the machinery of the government running.
Although President Bio has promised an independent investigation into the causes of Bloody Wednesday, the assasination and summary execution of those suspected of planning and organising those protests, have forced thousands of disgruntled youths underground in fear of their lives.
According to unconfirmed reports, Samson met his death after he was shot by armed military men in front of a merchandise shop on Station road, Makeni. His body was then taken away in an unmarked vehicle. Makeni hospital sources say they have no gun shot victim in their care, nor do they have the remains of anyone that died under such circumstances in their mortuary.
“This evening incident marks the second time an unarmed civilian is shot at by armed men. The first was reported on Thursday morning at Rogbaneh road, Makeni, where a youth by the name of Alie was taken from his room and executed, allegedly by armed paramilitary police (OSD) for reasons the family of the deceased said are unknown,” an unconfirmed report said last night.
A group calling itself the Association of APC Social Media Group (AASMeG), announced Samson’s death as follows: “It is with sadness, and a heavy heart, to inform all comrades both home and abroad, that information has just reached my desk that armed police went to arrest Evangelist Samson in Makeni and shot him in the process. Sadly, he has passed on.
“We have called the wife to ascertain or confirm the news with us; she said it is true, her husband is no more. Is this the dialogue the international community was calling for? Is this the investigation the SLPP government is talking about setting up? How come lives are not safe anymore under this Jurassic government. Who is next in line? Rest in Peace Comrade Evangelist Samson. May God grant you eternal life.” Signed: Ibrahim Foday Sesay, General Secretary, AASMeG
Neither the Sierra Leone police nor the leaders of the APC have commented on these alleged killings.
But yesterday, the opposition APC issued this statement:
Amnesty International has expressed serious concern over the deadly protests and human rights abuses in Sierra Leone; and has published this statement:
Authorities must ensure robust, impartial investigation into deadly protests. In response to protests that erupted due to the high cost of living on 10 August in Sierra Leone where dozens of people have lost their lives, the authorities have promised to investigate the circumstances leading to the loss of life.
The commitment from the authorities to investigate the deaths and other harm caused during the demonstrations which turned violent is an important step in the right direction. It is essential to ensure the full independence and impartiality of the investigation to determine the circumstances and responsibilities for the loss of lives, including if force was used in accordance with international standards, and to hold accountable all those responsible, including those in command.
Michèle Eken, researcher at Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa office said: “When policing assemblies, security forces have an obligation to minimize harm and injury, preserve human life and exercise restraint in the use of force. Law enforcement officials should only use force where there is no other means of achieving their legitimate objectives, and when the use of force is necessary and proportionate to the situation they face. This role should always be carried out in a way that ensures full respect for the right to life, liberty, and security of all persons, including those suspected of committing a crime.
“Amnesty International recalls that international human rights law equally protects spontaneous assemblies, which must not be dispersed solely for the fact that individuals did not submit a prior notification to the authorities. Therefore, the organization urges the government of Sierra Leone to amend the 1965 Public Order Act to expressly include an exemption from the prior notification requirement in the case of spontaneous assemblies.
“Amnesty International is also concerned that the authorities cut off the internet sporadically between 10 and 11 August. Access to the internet, social media, instant messaging apps and other digital technologies are important tools expanding the ability of people to protest both online and offline, enabling people to gain access to information, distribute details about an upcoming protest, organize, and enable virtual engagement in a wide variety of ways. Therefore, disruption of internet access is a violation of the right to freedom of expression and access to information protected by international human rights law and can have a dire impact on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
“Amnesty International heard reports of more than a hundred of people arrested. The authorities must ensure that bystanders and those who were protesting peacefully are not arbitrarily arrested simply for having participated in the demonstrations. If the authorities have enough evidence pointing to the use of violence by some individuals during the protests, they must guarantee their rights to due process and fair trial throughout the proceeding, including the right to representation.”
The country’s Human Rights Commission says the demonstrations were unlawful and are therefore holding its planners and organisers responsible for the deaths of the police officers and civilians. But the HRC fails to condemn reports of the summary assasination and extra-judicial killing of suspected protesters by security forces and heavily armed senior SLPP party operatives:
“It came to the notice of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) through a Press Release from the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and various social media platforms, that a group of people wanted to stage a protest against the government of Sierra Leone within the period 8th-10th August 2022. In light of the above, the Commission continuously monitored the situation nationwide and also observed messages from some social media enthusiasts and bloggers at home and abroad.
“Additionally, a real time monitoring by two Commissioners and staff who were in Makeni City on official assignment was also done.
Consequent on the above, HRCSL observed and noted the following:
– That during the said period the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) informed the public by a Press Release dated 6th August 2022 noting that “no group or group of persons have requested for permission as required by law, either verbally or in writing, from the police to hold such demonstrations. Nobody has come forward as leader or organizer of such events.”;
– Despite the Press Release by the Sierra Leone Police, it was observed that some people insisted in carrying out the protest even without police permission.
– That the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) further deployed strategic commanders in different locations within the country for an operation titled; “Operation Calm Nation” from 8th -11th August 2022;
– That despite the said Press Release and the deployment of strategic police commanders, both identifiable and unknown bloggers and enthusiasts continued writing and sending audio messages and videos on social media calling on citizens to take to the streets in protest or identify a place where they could assemble without procession in protest of their rights;
– That the result of this build-up and enduring incitement culminated into a violent riot on 10th August 2022 in the Eastern part of Freetown (the capital city), Makeni City and Kamakwei Township both in the North Eastern Region; and Lungi Township in Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom, Port Loko district in the North Western Region. The Commission observed that despite these cited locations, the rest of the country was peaceful.
– The Commission observed that on the third day of the protest i.e. 10th August there were killings of security personnel who were hacked in the most gruesome way, the death and wounding of civilians, blocking of roads, and the destruction of properties including government and private vehicles and the burning of police stations.
– That guns, sticks, cutlasses, stones, tyres and other arms were seen brandished by violent crowds during the protests.
– That during the violent protests the Honorable Vice President declared a nationwide curfew from 3pm-7am on 10th August which was not observed in some of the chaotic areas. The curfew was extended from 7pm-7am.on subsequent days. In light of these observations and findings, HRCSL would like to make the following statements and clarifications:
– That the right to Freedom of Assembly and Association is guaranteed under Section 26 (1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 which stipulates as follows – Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to any political party, trade unions or other economic, social or professional associations, national or international, for the protection of his interests.
– That while HRCSL has persistently called for the fulfillment of the right to peaceful and organized assemblies and associations to be backed by police protection/security, it has always equally reminded citizens that the right to freedom of assembly and association has conditions. It is worthy to note that there are always exceptions provided under the laws. Subsection (2) of the same Section 26 of the Constitution provides as follows; Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision
a. which is reasonably required –
i) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, or provision for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community; or
ii) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons; These exceptions and circumstances as contained in the Constitution are the same under the law that makes specific provisions and procedures for public processions. Section 17 of the Public
Order Act, 1965 (POA) provides thus.
(1) Any person who intends to take part or takes part in organising or holding any procession shall first notify the Commissioner of Police in writing of his intention to do so and any person who fails to give such notification as aforesaid shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) The Commissioner of Police shall by order in writing addressed to such persons giving notice, disallow the holding of any procession or impose such conditions as he shall think fit on any procession where in his opinion the interests of defence, public order, public safety or public morality so require.
“Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 and Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1986 are instructive regional and international legal instruments on the right to freedom of assembly and association to which Sierra Leone is a signatory.
“That having reviewed the laws both, national, regional and international instruments, HRCSL is of the view that the right to freedom of association and assembly is not a non-derogable right or an absolute right and therefore reasonably restricted by law. It should be further noted that there is no provision in these laws guaranteeing protest; instead peaceful assemblies and processions are
what the law guarantees.
“In view of the above, HRCSL considers the violent protests of 10th August 2022 as unlawful and illegal. The Commission hereby STRONGLY and ROUNDLY condemns the brutal killing of police officers and the loss of lives of innocent citizens owing to the said violent
“To this end, HRCSL makes the following recommendations;
1. That the Security Sector should immediately arrest, investigate and prosecute all those who incited and those who were directly involved in the said violent and unlawful protest in accordance with relevant laws without any exceptions;
2. That the Security Sector should do all it can to recover arms and ammunition that are in the wrong hands as was observed during the protests. Such arms pose a threat to the enjoyment of the rights to life and security of persons.
3. That the Cyber Security Unit of the Sierra Leone Police continue to track down all persons perpetrating hateful messages that will lead to riots, social disorder and subsequently eroding the security of the state.
4. That citizens be law abiding in line with the provisions stipulated in Sections 13 (a-j) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, respect authorities of the State and resist any form of lawlessness and incitement howsoever.
“The Commission deeply expresses its condolences to the families of all Sierra Leone Police Officers and other families who lost their relatives during the dreadful incident. HRCSL takes this opportunity to assure the general public of its unwavering commitment to the protection and promotion of the Human Rights of all in Sierra Leone.” (END)
The Sierra Leone Telegraph wishes to stress that the reported assasination of Samson, allegedly by armed security forces is yet to be confirmed either by the opposition APC or the police.