Sierra Leone authorities must immediately disclose whereabouts of former ministers and  others

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 May 2020:

As fears grow over the continuing detention of the former defence minister Palo Conteh, Dr Sylvia Blyden and others, serious questions are now being asked about the government’s refusal to allow close family and legal representatives to see them.

It is now almost twenty days since Dr Blyden was arrested and taken into detention in appalling conditions at the CID in Freetown, without charge.

According to legal experts, the decision to detain Dr Blyden (Photo below) and other opposition politicians without immediate due legal process, is in violation of the country’s constitution. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” lawyer Kamara told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.

Yesterday, Amnesty International expressed grave concern, and is asking the government of Sierra Leone to immediately disclose the whereabouts of those detainees.

“Authorities in Sierra Leone must reveal the whereabouts of a former Defence Minister and two others arrested since 19 March, allow them access to their lawyers and families, and guarantee a fair trial,” Amnesty International said.

According to the Amnesty statement, “Former minister Alfred Paolo Conteh was arrested on 19 March for stepping in the State House with a gun ahead of a meeting on COVID-19 responses. Retired Colonel Sir Anthony Sinnah deputy commissioner of the National Commission on Small Arms and Prince George Jusu were also arrested in relation to the same incident. They were charged with treason and other related crimes. Their trial is ongoing, and hearings are scheduled to resume next week.

“On 29 April, five inmates and two prison guards died following a riot amid COVID-19 case at Freetown’s prison where the three accused were held. They were then transferred in an unknown location following that incident.

“Amnesty International calls for information on the whereabout of the detainees and the application of standard minimum rules for their treatment: standard accommodation, personal hygiene, food, medical services and other health care.

“According to their lawyers there are concerns about the safety of their clients. The prison authorities have not yet responded to their letter requesting access to their clients. Even if lawyers cannot see the detainees in prison due to the measures put in place to fight COVID-19, authorities must ensure that lawyers are able to communicate with them, to assess their health and to coordinate their defence strategy.

“Fair trial principles should be applied including the detainees having adequate opportunity to prepare a case, participate in future hearings, present arguments and evidence and challenge or respond to opposing arguments or evidence. They should be entitled to consult and be represented by a legal representative or other qualified persons chosen by them at all stages of the proceedings,” the statement end.

Two days ago, the country’s chief justice said that some courts will be opened next Monday, so as to begin the trial of those arrested and detained, following a wave of social unrest that took place across the country last week.

But it is not clear whether Palo Conteh’s case will continue next week, after State prosecutors failed or refused to produce the video recording as evidence – showing Palo Conteh (Photo) walking into State House with a gun, as alleged.

It is also not certain whether Dr Blyden will be charged this weekend to appear in court next week.

Sierra Leone’s poor human rights record is facing serious risk of worsening, as president Bio resolves to tighten his grip on what he refers to as “terrorism” and growing lawlessness in the country.

Calls for president Bio to establish an independent investigation  into the shooting and killing of dozens of unarmed prisoners by heavily armed presidential guards in Freetown are growing.

Police headquarters in Freetown published a statement this morning about investigations it says it is conducting, as another opposition politician – a member of parliament – Lahai Marrah of Constituency 045 in Koinadugu District, was arrested and taken into police custody for allegadly inciting public hatred against president Bio’s government.

This is what the statement says:

“Following an incendiary statement made on WhatsApp by sitting Honourable Lahai Marrah of Constituency 045 Koinadugu District on Saturday 9th May, 2020, the Sierra Leone Police would like to inform the general public that it has commenced investigation into the said issue.

“This statement, which was and still making rounds on social media, is considered to bring into hatred or contempt, or incite disaffection for the Government of Sierra Leone and stir up rebellion.

“Against this background, the CID has launched a full-scale investigation into alleged Sedition and other related offences against Honourable Marrah.

“The SLP further wants the public to know that after following due protocols and processes, Hon. Marrah availed himself at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and our Detectives have obtained statements from him; to which he admitted to have originated the post, though he denied claims of having circulated it.

“Meanwhile, he is detained at the CID, assisting with the investigation. The public will be updated of developments as the matter progresses.”

21 Comments

  1. This is what has driven people out of the context even the sympathizers found it very difficult to apprehend. Come on the wise and intelligent people. Let us be realistic, whom is the Bio led SLPP retaliating against and for what? I believe this country’s abiding citizens are well aware of constitution of the land. Whatever happened, let us assume that Paolo Conteh had successfully overthrown and killed the President – May God forbid it.
    This is not a junta regime as some of you have been claiming, rather we are all law-abiding citizens of this country Sierra Leone. May God guide our leaders, protect them and may God save this President and his administration.

  2. People tend to forget, taking a firearm to State House is a crime. Palo is a Learned Man, former Military Officer and Former Minister of Defense he should know better.

  3. Mr Turay – The good news is that you are one of those intelligent people I greatly admire on this forum, but I am very sorry to tell you that I am not your comrade Saidu Conteh. We are as different as night and day. Firstly, Saidu is young and I am over fifty, he is a diehard APC supporter and I am not – I do not belong to any political party. I am an independent thinker who deeply cares about our beloved nation. If Mr Thomas says we should move on, he may have his personal reasons, so lets move on. I would advise Saidu to contact the Editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph privately and render a heartfelt apology, and see how that works out.

  4. Wow, I am loving it. Gradually, I am beginning to see more patriotic and level headed Sierra Leoneans joining the conversation in this intellectual forum. Welcome to you all, I hope you are here to stay. The more, the merrier!!!

  5. I don’t know or cant understand the word forgiveness, when in fact you did not even recognize the person’s wrong doing. We are failing to come out and say the fact instead blaming. If someone thinks Paolo Conteh did nothing wrong, well there’s no need for apology, forgiveness and forget. All we know is, the detainees are in safe places and secured. The British law is very rigid not flexible, so let’s be assured that justice must be carried out with due process. May God bless this country.

  6. Revenge will not pay. Forgiveness pays. We are one people in a territorial clan. Let us forgive and forget about the past.

  7. The one very big reason SL is still in despicable state, unable to provide for its citizens is due to inability of its leaders to lead. Our African leaders especially those in SL,lack the ‘know how’ to govern. Only a few african countries have stood up to some amount of task,and have lived up to at least some expectations. Rwanda,Kenya,South Africa, Egypt Angola, Tanzania and recently Ghana, are some of the few.

    In SL, for the good chunk of the last 59 yearrs, leaders in that country have failed and are still failing to provide mere bread and butter for its citizens. It makes me wonder and asked when really is SL going to stood up and be counted. And the worst of it all is this current Bio administration that has started failing so miserably that even the newly conceived baby in her mother’s womb is trembling in there with fear. For us all to come out and speak the reality for the good of our citizens and for our own self indulgence, we are still out here playing chess or cat and mouse game. You still have folks defending this administration for its wrong doings. People’s freedom have been trampled on, their lives have been jeopardized, torned apart, and still you have folks here in this platform defending that.

    We all should be championing “everyday development” or at the least, speak out when we see something going wrong for our brothers, sisters and our families out there in Sierra Leone. Lets speak for them, advocate for them, hold leaders to account for failure to provide the basic needs that they promised to give to our people. Lets do that through the ‘MIGHTY PEN’…Let the whole world know that, we did not stand by and watch things going wrong. Let our children’s children know the position we took, in helping curb the situation. Duya ina mek wi de lan for ep wisef ya?..we all can do that just by telling the simple truth. Not by partisan, regionalism, tribalism, sectionalism – but by us being SIERRA LEONEANS for Sierra Leone.

  8. Thanks for your honesty Mr. Alimamy Turay. But this time around I hope and pray that he will respect the basic rule of RESPECTING fellow forumites and writers on this respectable and widely read Newspaper. The good news is that the “Red burning sun will never rise again.”

  9. Edwin John says—“ Where was Amnesty international when thugs and unruly hooligans broke into the prisons to free their comrade. Or where was Amnesty international when cops and innocent citizens are being chased and properties burnt, looted and destroyed.”

    Mr. Edwin, are you really serious to be making such callous and falsehood statements? Exactly which report did you hear that there was ‘a prison break in’ to free prisoners? Also, exactly what incident are you referring to ‘ cops and citizens being chased by thugs with properties looted and burnt’? I am not sure if you just happened to return back to planet earth from somewhere else, but may I remind you that this platform is full of intellectuals and the peddling of fake news is abhorrent.

  10. The whole world is under state of emergency and most our civil liberty has been temporarily suspended due to the deadly coronavirus disease. Family members are not even allowed to visit their loved ones at nursing homes, elderly homes, hospitals and prisons even in the most powerful country in the world. What is so special about these APC culprits that have no respect for basic rule of law that will warrant the bending of the rules and regulations that are already in place?, by the way everyone knows were Paolo Conteh is ( jail ) and that is where he deserves to be for taking a loaded gun to the statehouse .

    I hope everyone will just calm down and respect the new normal which is social distancing and isolation. The bottom line is President Bio who is the commander- in – Chief and Fountain of Honor have promised the nation that they will have their day in court .

  11. Are you and Amnesty Int. only concerned about a few individuals who have been charged with various crimes against the state. Where was Amnesty international when thugs and unruly hooligans broke into the prisons to free their comrade. Or where was Amnesty international when cops and innocent citizens are being chased and properties burnt, looted and destroyed. Would they allow such behaviors in their country. We all know the answer. Please!

    This is why Paul Kagame went after BBC and the West for double standards. They’ve been charged, they are in custody let them face the rule of law. No citizen is above the law. Or is it because its happening in Africa.

  12. As I said in my last comment, President Bio and his Bio SLPP are now completely unease and are increasingly moving towards dictatorial rule. With no evidence against Dr Sylvia Blyden, no evidence against Mrs Conteh, no evidence against the other political detainees, failing to show the evidence of the CCTV of Rtd Major Paolo Conteh entering State House and the increasing isolation of President Bio and his Bio SLPP by the International community, has made the Bio SLPP gone on its unlawful incarceration spree of opposition members.

    Fighting COVID-19 is no longer the priority of President Bio and the Bio SLPP in my view. Let me say it again. If the International community stays silent on this sort of reckless and irresponsible behavior by the Bio SLPP, then, the unlawful incarceration and detention of opposition members will continue. Most worrying, is for this reckless act not to plunge our country into another chaos and anarchy. We therefore ask the international community, especially the UK, to come to Sierra Leone’s aid.

    God protect all those unlawfully incarcerated. May there whereabouts be made known. I hope the political detainees were not among those killed by President Bio’s presidential guards on that dark day.

    • Prez Bio should note that revenge will not pay. He is the Chief Justice, Fountain of Honor, etc. He has the power and authority to pardon his fellow military and political comrades: Rtd. Paolo and others. Detainees should not be deprived of all forms of communication. We must live in peace and not live in revenge. I like your analysis.

  13. And the Pendulum of injustice keeps on swinging higher and higher,far away from individual freedoms and liberties,towards authoritarian rule.Free speech is now being considered as hate speech,and the President and his henchman,and going all out to stamp their names with frightening brutality on the already bloodstained pages of our nations history.Let them be reminded that the standard principles that govern even the most fragile democracies,struggling in their infancy do not allow,or make provisions for lawless,unchecked violence,illegal,arbitrary arrests,and detention,and the use of State powers,resources,and personnel to intimidate,threaten,,harass and bully innocent citizens into compliance and submission.

    Our President has failed miserably because of indecisiveness and poor judgement…because of putting tribal commitments,sentiments,and partisan loyalty as his foremost priorities,instead of national progress and unity.What exactly is their reason for refusing Paolo,Dr Blyden,Mr Williams and others access to their lawyers,and family members?Which law is it forbids those accused of even the worst crimes to be kept in undisclosed locations,without access to legal advice?

    Red flags are springing up everywhere – Whats going on? Are those high profile detainees being secretly mistreated?…Are they being mentally,and physically tortured,harassed,degraded,and abused?Anything is possible with this deranged,unstable government in power,with an unflinching military mindset,that is already hellbent on washing themselves from head to toe,with the blood of unarmed prisoners,and innocent civilians.Amnesty International has made the right call – let the world know where opposition leaders are being held NOW.

    • The government is completely out of justice system. This is leading to poor democracy in our country. Bio should bear it in mind that he was elected as a Democratic president so his leadership should be governed that way. All we need is freedom and fair justice that’s all we are asking for.

    • Brilliant comment there by Mr. Stargerzer. I wish I would have something to add to those strong words and facts by Mr. Stargerzer on the Bio SLPP. Straight and to the point.
      I believe it’s time to take a break, because people like Mr. Stargerzer will be present on this glorious platform to expose the injustice and barbarity taking place in present day Sierra Leone. God bless you Mr. Stargerzer. By the way, Mr. Saidu Conteh has not been participating for a very long time now? Has the problem with the editor not yet been resolved? God bless the Editor Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas, Mr. Saidu Conteh and Mr. Stargerzer.

    • I used to hav a brother called Saidu Conteh (aka the Great Sayedna). He disappeared for a while. When he came back, he called himself Stargazer. Hmmm … I think we have to rename him back to his original name. He is more powerful that way. I am not sure whether the great ART would mind.

      • Two SLPP forumites were banned alongside Mr Conteh, and they have not been allowed back into the forum. There is one rule for ALL – without exception. We must uphold and be consistent in upholding the rules. Please lets move on. Thank you.

  14. Gradually, all major international human rights organizations are zooming in our nation. With our horrific history of violence and atrocities committed during the 11yrs civil war, this is definitely not to celebratory moment. Why are we always famous for the wrong reasons? My prayer is that president Bio will get rid of the extremist elements around him wagging the tongues of war.

    The resident minister NORTH was video tape threatening to kill and amputate family members of any youth who is deem as a trouble maker. Besides him being suspended, no charges or arrest were made. As we speak, he is a free man. Compare this Honorable Marrah who is in police custody now. Until the rule of law and justice is applied squarely across the board, devoid of politics, or tribal consideration, peace and stability will never be achieve.

  15. Regarding this matter, and all matters pertaining to the highly charged political cases ongoing in Sierra Leone, I would like to draw your attention to the allegations made by the state against the individuals concerned. At the moment, apart from the statement made by president Bio on the state of the nation, and half baked statements made by our own very disgraceful Sierra Leone police, I’m still baffled as to why the continued detention of Dr Sylvia Blyden. It will be helpful if the government can produce a shred of evidence that she was hell bent on destabilising the government of Sierra Leone. The first exhibit produced by the Sierra Leone police as evidence that she was up to no good, doesn’t cut ice, and not if we shine a light in the fog of lies that have been peddled.

    Trust me, you can trace most of our problems to those years since 1967 to the early part of the 70s. The seed of revenge politics was sowed then. And that tree of anger and revenge is fully grown and causing us all sorts of problems. It is so big its tentacles are reaching every part of Sierra Leone society, rivalling our famous cotton tree. I think if the authorities are to be taken serious, they need to produce hard evidence. As for Alfred Paolo Conteh, the ex defence minister that took a gun to state house, it is not only a stupid thing to do, unless as he claimed he declared it on arrival.

    Here again, we need to see the CCTV footage of his arrival and the discussions he had with security personnel, for us to make any credible judgement about what took place. Not after telling an over zealous security that he wish it to be known he was in possession of a gun for his own protection, and turns that out an over zealous security in State House misinterpreted him, because as we in Sierra Leone like to say – he wants a ‘BUTTON’. I wish we have lip readers. A picture speaks more than a thousand words. Or better still – seeing is believing.

  16. I support the statement of amnesty international and like to repeat my demand for an independent commission of investigation immediately.

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