The Palo Conteh treason trial – Lesson learnt

Jusu Kallon Esq.: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 July 2020:

So much to take home from the just concluded treason trial involving the country’s former Defence and Internal Affairs Minister, Mr. Alfred Paolo Conteh. I am minded to focus on one.

Celebrating the verdict, my brother and colleague, Ady Macauley who served as one of the defense counsel for Mr. Alfred Paolo Conteh, had this to say on his Facebook page: “12 men and women of his peers (the jury) have found AlfredPaloConteh Not guilty on all Treason Charges …”

We now know how funny and interesting life can be – friends become enemies and enemies become friends. Yes. All due to the fact that (we) humans are truly fickle.

Thanks to a handful of private practitioners (lawyers) and the clairvoyance of few individual patriots who, in 2017, opposed the then Ernest Bai Koroma’s APC government for attempting to remove and do away with Jury Trial from our law book(s).

In other words, trials such as treason should be done by Judge alone. Worse still, was the fact that not even the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) was engaged or consulted.

As a matter of fact, a meeting held at the British Council to deliberate on the shambolic proposal could only prove inconclusive. Surfeit to say that a certain natural mystic could not allow to Parliament.

Hands in the air and across the chest, there was determination from the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice back then to have Jury trial done with. The spurious argument advanced by government enthusiasts then was that Jury trial enhanced delay in trials as they (jurors) invariably hardly show up in court albeit there are laws against such absenteeism. Have I mentioned that jurors are not remunerated in Sierra Leone!?

The Alfred Paolo Conteh trial inter alia has rubbished such argument. Need I say more!?

Am not a typical criminal practitioner of a lawyer. However, I can bet my land in Yemen  that a serious criminal practitioner is unlikely to agree with the motion that there should not be a trial by jury rather, by judge alone – especially with a serious criminal charge.

At least we can all now attest to what it truly means for one to be tried by one’s peers.

Lesson

We must be extremely careful with power. As a people and country, we must be always circumspect with the way we seek to introduce new laws, review or amend old laws and the way and manner we go about copying pieces of legislation from other countries and jurisdictions.

Sad though, that history finds it very hard to teach us all.

Mr. Alfred Paolo Conteh may have just benefitted from a provision of the law (that) the APC government he diligently served so strenuously tried to get rid of. Well, matter-of-factly,  my friend and brother, did not say “may”.

8 Comments

  1. The judiciary of Sierra Leone has once again stood the test of time. In the midst of all the odds, it saw to it that each and every life counts; and for one to loose his/her life according to the law books, must be beyond every reasonable doubt. My respect goes to the judge for directing the jury to such a conclusion of a verdict.

  2. The main lesson learnt is our beloved country will never go back to the dark days of the 25 years destructive misrule of the one party dictatorship of the APC under the leadership of late President Siaka Stevens and late President Joseph Momoh . The destructive propaganda machine of the APC party stated in the link https://cocorioko.net/why-all-the-fuss-over-f-m-minah/

    • Thanks Mr Alusine Fallay for the link you sent me. Unfortunately, I was directed to the link below which I found interesting too. I don’t really know what happened. Your thoughts sir.
      https://standardtimespress.org/?p=672
      Thanks Mr Alusine Fallay for your contribution on this glorious platform and God bless you.

  3. Historical events that shape our country’s history, always seemed to happen in the month of july. On the 19th of july 1975 Dr. Mohamed Sorie Forna, together with Lt. Habib Lansana Kamara, Ibrahim Bash Tagi, and Brigadier David Lansana, Paramount Chief Bai Makarie N’silk were executed at Pademba Road prison. I was little at the time, but even as a child you couldn’t avoid the despondency the general population felt towards the Stevens APC government. After those events my father who was life long APC supporter was so upset he became an overnight SLPP supporter. He felt those executions were wrong. The cruelty of not only executing those extraordinary citizens of our country, didn’t stop with the state sanctioned murders, but their families and country as a whole had to endure the spectacle of their bodies displayed outside Pademba road prison.

    According to President Stevens and his accomplices, this state sanctioned murder was to teach the population a lesson, or those that dared to have a different opinion from the APC machinery to think again. In other words, if you disagree with us this is what will happened to you. I recall my father as it happened at the time, was visiting Freetown from Kabala. Coming back, he was shaken, and said he will never allow us to join the army, becsuse they will frame you. I think the present justice ministry should set up an independent commission of inquiry, not to apportion blame, but to establish the facts and how the case for treason charges were bought against Paola conteh and others in the first place, so important lessons can be learnt. And the powers to make recommendation from it findings.

    No family, or the country as a whole should be subjected to this mental torture. We cannot be in a situation where anyone in power can use the judiciary as a tool of supression against their political opponents. This applies to both APC and SLPP governments. After those executions, the APC lost their political stronghold in Tonkolili District. After the 1992 execution of Hon. Bambay Kamara and James Yayah Kanu, Valentine Strasser lost his appeal. Sierra Leoneans are allergic to dictators. Our judiciary should be independent at all times.

  4. This inept SLPP government has proved their lack of good judgement to the entire world once again;(lol)they are wishful thinkers hoping to use a sham trial,that was orchestrated to deflect attention from the 40 unarmed prisoners they intended on killing,at the Pademba road prisons.First lesson to be learned by these dummies is that the Truth is like the radiant Sun that illuminates,and energizes everything on earth,it cannot be cloaked,masked or hidden from public view. Impossible!

    Secondly, they would need to learn how to think pragmatically and constructively in order to avoid future embarrassment and humiliation as this one.I mean seriously even primary school children would’ve easily told you that it was a hopeless cause.Thirdly,they should strive very hard to not let hatred,and their thirsts for revenge cloud and distort their visions to the point where they become eerie monsters that feed only on fresh human blood.Fourthly,they must avoid using the law as a wretched harlot that can be easily bought for scraps and sold to anyone,and for the purposes of achieving any deviant SLPP objective.

    And lastly this is for Paolo Conteh – Hey man,learn to listen to prudent advice,and warnings like the one i gave on this glorious forum,advising the legendary APC to beware of treachery,and duplicity coming from the hands of the criminal SLPP Cabal.Ever seen a deer that escaped the grips of a’Scissors Styled Mole Trap’,that doesn’t miss an inch,when it is triggered by an animal stepping on it? Well,buddy that’s how lucky you were;stay far away from them,next time you will not be so lucky.I guarantee it!

  5. This article is just a mere attempt to water down the increasing impunity to justice and other spheres of life that had been talking place in Sierra Leone since the Bio-SLPP government came to power 2-years ago. It also seeks to dilute the massive loss of CREDIBILITY and lack of scrutiny in taking appropriate decisions by an overzealous government that is bent on taking the law into their hands. In fact, it is this atmosphere of impunity towards civil liberties and human rights that had led to the fake indictment of treason against Rtd Mayor Alfred Paolo Conteh. The fact is that the outcome of this case had left the government’s reputation deflated out of proportions and probably beyond repair.

    Bringing the former President, Ernest Bai Koroma into the equation is just a blatant move to counterbalance the enormous damage inflicted to the present government. As usual, the SLPP’s trump card is to use the finger of blame against the APC for their failures and ineptitude in running the affairs of the country. If in 2017, Ernest Bai Koroma’s APC had attempted “to remove and do away with Jury Trial from our law book(s)” there must have been underlying causes that had led to that proposition albeit with hindsight. The main point here is President Koroma foresaw the consequences of such a flawed policy and did not insist in pursuing and implementing it. Undoubtedly, this is a rudimentary trait of a good and competent leader – recognising an oversight.

    All in all, the Paolo Conteh treason case had created a precedent in deciding cases of high magnitude in the history of the country; brought about by the powers that be. Credits should be given to the 12-man Jury that stood steadfastly against all odds and delivered a verdict of ‘not quilty’ – especially considering the current political dispensation. There are a lot of biased partisan cases that are dusting in the Chief Justice’s cupboards; and until those injustices are rectified, Sierra Leone’s Criminal Justice system is still at the juncture of a crossroads.

  6. By the Grace of the Almighty, before the end of the two terms of President Bio our judiciary system will be restored to the days before the late Siaka Stevens of the APC party who started the destruction of our judiciary system and was escalated by his handpicked stooge late President Momoh and Dr. Abdulai Conteh who was his Attorney General.

    The lifetime chairman of the APC party wanted to take the destruction to the highest level by getting rid of our jury system by only succeeded in bypassing our parliamentary system of removing the elected Vice President through impeachment rather than the judiciary he corrupted. I personally believe that the people of Sierra Leone because of the improvement of social media are now aware of the destructive APC party misrule and they will continue to reject them at the ballot box for decades.

    • While APC supporters are all over the place praising the Jury, none is praising the Judge. A jury is directed by a judge. The judge has the power to send the jurors back to deliberate on his direction if the judge misconstrued his direction. So while I applaud the jurors, I hold the judge in higher esteem for the way he handled the trial especially in the way he directed the jurors in reaching their decision.

      Another concern and this is for the judiciary, if a trial can be conducted with such speed, why are corruption cases gathering dust at the law officer’s department, the court, at the ACC and at the CID? I think these cases are more important than a stupid man who decides to take his pistol to public places when the law forbids that.

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