Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 January 2022:
President Julius Maada Bio has today sacked the country’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, after taking the decision to rescind his pardon, granted to a man whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment for murder.
Baimba Moiforay, otherwise known as LAC and his bodyguard – Foday Kamara, were sentenced to death by hanging in October 2016, after they were found guilty of killing popular DJ Sydney Buckle in June 2015.
LAC is one of 160 inmates who were granted clemency by President Bio on New Year’s Day, based on recommendations by the Clemency Committee which is chaired by Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh.
Also on the committee is the Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Anthony Yeiwoh Brewah, who has today been sacked by President Bio. It is not clear why Brewah has been sacked, but there are suspicions he is being held responsible by the President for recommending an unrepentant murderer for clemency.
The President’s decision to pardon LAC was highly controversial, sparking public outcry, especially after LAC was seen in a video bluffing about his release from jail and counting billions of Leones cash in the presence of a military officer. (See video below).
This is one of the reactions posted on social media, after LAC was released from jail: “The release of LAC from his two sentences – 26 years and death by hanging from the Pademba prisons shows that the Judiciary System under the Bio led government is a total sham. A judiciary that is fit to describe as hopeless for those who hope for Justice, just like the mother, wife and children of DJ Clef that were relieved of pain due to the justice they got, hence LAC was given such sentences.
“Today pain, grief and sorrow have again emerged from the hearts and eyes of the relatives of DJ clef. A disgrace and shame will continue to dwindle the reputation of Bio till he faces his death, for death is the end of all mortals. The nation of Sierra Leone has finally lost all hopes in the judiciary of Bio’s government, due to this reckless behaviour of releasing a man that destroyed the reputation of our country to the international world by even scaring away investors that wanted to come to our country to invest, all in the name of a ritualist murderer – LAC.
“Today that man is walking a free man again, thereby throwing fear on all of us that stood for justice. A disgrace to democracy, a disgrace to leadership, a disgrace to the security. What is the fate of the ordinary citizens’ security? If those institutions that are supposed to uphold justice and security are messing up like this. This calls for a national mourning for the release of a notorious killer and ritualist that has been found guilty of murder by a competent court of law.”
Many now believe that LAC had used his cash to bribe some members of the Clemency Committee, and there are allegations the minister of information Mohamed Rado Swaray may also be involved in the clemency bribery scandal after photographs posted on social media show the minister of information and communication in the residence of the Attorney General posing with LAC, following the release of LAC from prison. (See photos below).
The question many are asking now is – how much cash did the Attorney General and information minister Swaray (Photo above posing with LAC on standing on the left) receive for recommending LAC’s clemency to President Bio?
(Photo above: Attorney General standing in front of convicted murderer LAC in his residence with Information minister Swaray posing on the right. How much did they receive from LAC?)
Announcing the revoking of LAC’s clemency, President Bio said he will conduct an investigation into the process leading to the granting of pardon to LAC on 1st January 2022, pursuant to Section 63(1A) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone.
But there are fears LAC has already left the country. Many believe he is now in Guinea, while others say he is in Nigeria.
Welcoming the New Direction President’s U-turn, withdrawing LAC’s clemency, Legal Link – a local NGO fighting for justice in Sierra Leone issued this statement:
“LEGAL LINK welcomes the move by His Excellency, Dr Julius Maada Bio, especially after its constructive advocacy on 98.1 Radio in the early hours of 17th January 2022, regarding the exercise of his prerogative of mercy particularly on LAC who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the High Court of Sierra Leone over the murder of DJ Clef.
“We, like the victim’s family and the majority of aggrieved persons within the Sierra Leone society are happy and enthused about this revocation of pardon notwithstanding it being made 16 days after it was first granted.
“As an organization that defends the rights of vulnerable groups, advocate for fair trial rights, justice and rule of law in Sierra Leone, we were of the opinion that the granting of Pardon to LAC was not in the best interest of society nor the interest of the family of the victim.
“As a matter of fact, also, such pardon does not only defeat the ends of justice but further provides an incentive for the commissioning of heinous crimes in society by perpetrators.
“While critics have maintained doubts regarding the president’s move to revoke a pardon, we at LEGAL LINK holds the view that the president has express and inherent powers to revoke a pardon especially so when it turns out that the ends of justice and society’s interests have not been served by the granting of such a pardon.
“Subject to the interpretation that may be granted by the Supreme court regarding the constitutional provision below, by Section 171 (11) (a) which falls under Chapter X111 MISCELLANEOUS provision of the 1991 constitution, it may appear that the president has the competence to not only exercise pardon powers but also revoke them particularly if they were made pursuant to an ORDER or DIRECTIVE; and such pardon turns out to have defeated the end of justice and society’s interests.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 171(11)(a) of the 1991 Constitution is quoted verbatim:
“Section 171(11): “Where any power — a. is conferred by this Constitution to make any order, regulation, rule or pass any resolution or give any direction or make any declaration or designation, it shall be deemed to include the power, exercisable in like manner and subject to the like conditions, if any, to amend or revoke any such order, regulation, rule, constitutional or statutory instrument, resolution, direction, declaration or designation as the case may be; Provided that nothing in this subsection shall apply to the power to issue a certificate conferred by paragraph (b) of subsection (6) of section 50 of this Constitution.”
“A critical construction of the above provision may reveal that (subject to the Supreme Court’s interpretation), the president can revoke a pardon earlier granted especially so if it was made pursuant to an ORDER or DIRECTIVE.
“Furthermore, there are also many case laws in many Commonwealth jurisdictions to substantiate the argument that a president or future presidents can revoke a pardon earlier granted in the interest of justice and society’s expectations.
“As a consequence of the above therefore, we at LEGAL LINK welcome the pardon revocation and thank His Excellency for showing leadership in the given circumstance. We hope and pray that LAC will be re-arrested and sent back to prison to complete his jail term which has already been commuted to life imprisonment.
“With respect to the investigations that has been opened by His Excellency regarding the process leading to the granting of Pardon to LAC on 1st January 2022, our position is mixed.
“While we commend the move to unearth the truth behind this unwise decision, we also note with concern that it is the president’s office that has instituted this investigation and not an independent body. Given the fact that it is the Vice President who serves as Chairman of the Pardon Committee by virtue of Section 63(1) of the 1991 constitution, it is unavoidable that the president will certainly be investigating his vice president over this matter.
“How such a move may gel with the nation’s body politic and that of the smooth administration of governance as well as the relationship between the two offices, is anyone’s guess to make.
“But given the implications (potential or real) that this investigation might have on the governance system of the country, it may perhaps be wise for his Excellency to direct that an independent body investigates the Pardon Committee over its unwise decision to recommend LAC for pardon without reference to certain international benchmarks and best practices such as the interest of society, the effect on the victim’s family, the jail term served by the convict, the remorseful nature of the convict and the interest of justice.”
So, who is the new Attorney General of Sierra Leone, appointed by President Bio today?
He is Mohamed Lamin Tarawalley, who is the country’s Solicitor General (Photo – Tarawalley alongside President Bio).
The question that remains in everyone’s lips tonight is why the President has not sacked Vice President Jalloh for woefully failing in his duty to ensure, as chairman of the Clemency or Pardon Committee that LAC was properly vetted, before making his recommendation to the President.
Has the Attorney General fallen on his own sword or is he being used as a political fall-guy or scapegoat?
Why has the minister of information not been suspended, subject to investigations by the ACC for alleged bribery?
If President Bio is honest about conducting an investigation into the process leading to the granting of clemency to LAC, why is it not an independent investigation?