Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 March 2018:
As calls for the Sierra Leone police to rescind what human rights activists and groups refer to as serious breach of civil liberty grow, the country’s Bar Association has today thrown its weight behind the pressure that is now mounting.
Most of the political parties have refused to sign a memorandum of understanding drawn up by the police, restricting vehicle movements across the country on polling day – March 7th. They say that they will not sign any police order that impinges upon the rights of citizens to free movement.
This is what the Bar Association says in its statement:
“The Sierra Leone Bar Association (hereinafter referred to as “the Association”) notes the conclusion of the pre- elections phase of the General Elections of 7th March 2018 and commends the various stakeholders including the Elections Management Bodies, Judiciary, security forces, political parties and the people of Sierra Leone for the successful and to a large extent peaceful conduct of the electoral process this far.
“The Association applauds the effort and vigilance of the Sierra Leone Police in managing security especially during the campaign period, which involved public rallies of political parties.
“As the electoral process enters its second and third phases of polling day and post- elections respectively, the Association’s attention has been drawn to a Public Notice dated 26th February 2018, captioned: “VEHICLE RESTRICTION ON POLLING DAY”, issued by the Sierra Leone Police.
“The Sierra Leone Bar Association however notes that the legal provisions cited cannot be a basis and/or justification for the said Public Notice, in particular Section 18 (3) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991 and Section 32 of the Police Act of 1964 which has been repealed.
“The Association reiterates that the security forces are expected to observe and respect the fundamental human right of freedom of movement as enshrined in Section18 (1)of the Constitution within the context of security measures put in place covering polling day and immediately after.
“While vehemently condemning the unauthorised use of force, attacks on persons, destruction of property and all forms of violence in contravention of the laws of Sierra Leone, the Association calls on:
1. all stakeholders to guarantee the credibility of the entire electoral process and to facilitate the exercise by each citizen of his/her democratic franchise in a free and fair atmosphere;
2. all registered voters to go to the polls on the 7th March 2018, continue to be law abiding, cooperate with the security forces to maintain peace and order and where necessary seek redress for any alleged wrongs in the courts;
3. all members and supporters of political parties to desist from making threats, engaging in acts of violence and any conduct that has the potential to cause unrest and or instability; and
4. pledges its unfettered support to the efforts of the security forces in condemning and fighting violence while guaranteeing peaceful participation of all citizens in the electoral process.
“The Association hereby registers its concrete resolve to see to it that any persons who may be found wanting, as far as any unlawful conduct is concerned will account fully for such conduct.
“Meanwhile the Association remains committed to the objective of its 2018 Elections Project of “Fostering a Credible Electoral Process in Sierra Leone”, ensuring the success of the country’s first post-war general elections conducted by its people and maintaining its recently well rated peace index.
“Finally, the Association entreats all and sundry to exercise restraint, be peaceful and law abiding during the entire process.
“Long live the Sierra Leone Bar Association and Long live the Republic of Sierra Leone.”
DATED THE 5TH DAY OF MARCH 2018
SIGNED: ASHMIA FOFANAH (Ms) – GENERAL SECRETARY