5 February 2013
The increasing systemic failure of the criminal justice establishment in Sierra Leone to protect against human rights abuses, epitomises the appalling level of lawlessness and break down of law and order in the country.
Impunity and the abuse of human rights may not be officially sanctioned by State House, but there is little doubt as to where responsibility lies.
A leading human rights group – ‘RIGHTSWAY’ is today holding the Sierra Leone Police, the Human Rights Commission and Paramount Chief of Kamabai town ‘’responsible’’ for ‘’ delaying justice’’ over the disappearance and death of Madam Yeabu Beckley, age 56, who disappeared on 7 November, 2012.
An autopsy report now reveals that she died as a result of ‘’Asphyxia and ligature strangulation’’. Her skeletal remains were found in the bush, near the town in January 2013.
RIGHTSWAY says that the Police, Human Rights Commission and the Paramount Chief, should have intensified their search immediately after she went missing.
In a statement released today, the rights group says that an early investigation could have led to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of those responsible.
There are strong suspicions she may have been murdered, and many are questioning whether the police have handled the case robustly.
But in a strong condemnation of the country’s police, the human rights group confirmed: “RIGHTSWAY is satisfied that there is ‘credible evidence’ that the Police, Human Rights Commission and Paramount Chief are implicated in a series of professional misconduct, abuse of power, failure to protect, torture, unlawful detentions, the concealment of victims’ complaints and lack of commitment to investigate, prosecute and disclose information leading to the disappearance and death of Yeabu Beckley.”
A spokesperson for RIGHTSWAY, Mohamed Kanneh, said: “This delay in investigating earlier prompts the question – why delay? Because of this, the Police, the Human Rights Commission and the Paramount Chief have unnecessarily delayed justice and must accept full responsibility.
“The swift intervention of the authorities concerned may have helped prevent this tragedy, but have done little or nothing to achieve trust and confidence in policing, leadership of the paramount chief or the Human Rights Commission itself.
“It is incredible that the Human Rights Commission gets massive funding from donors, and biggest spending on the Police, institutions that are doing little or nothing to protect and promote human rights, and allowing Police complicity in committing crimes against humanity with impunity’’
“RIGHTSWAY commend President Ernest Bai Koroma who has been credited for promoting and protecting human rights in the country, since taking power.
“However, RIGHTSWAY is bitterly disappointed in President Koroma’s failure to rein in the Sierra Leone Police and police officers who continue to engage in unprofessional and criminal behaviour. This undermines the Government’s credibility and human rights records.
“This is a deliberate attempt to cover up the truth for fear of its political repercussions, from a Government that claimed it wanted to tackle widespread indiscipline, impunity, lawlessness and recklessness.
“And it’s the worst kind of cover-up: the kind of cover-up that involves human rights. This is a cover-up that involves the disappearance and death of a Sierra Leonean in such a horrific way. The Government had manifestly failed in its duty to protect its people.
“RIGHTSWAY also accused the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party and some sections of the media and civil society of doing little or nothing to engage with those concerned by giving a “deaf ear” and not calling on Government to take action in the face of ongoing human rights violations.
“RIGHTSWAY is also disappointed that some of those arrested including the children and family members of Yeabu Beckley for protesting her disappearance were languishing in notorious prison in Makeni.
“During their imprisonment they have experienced torture, ill-treatment and even unlawful detention. Many of those arrested were in a bad way, physically and psychologically. Several are suffering from severe health problems.
“Feelings are running high about the fate of those unlawfully detained, many of whom were arrested for their role as protesters, not for committing any crimes. RIGHTSWAY is deeply concerned for the victims and families of those arrested who are out of their minds with worry, not knowing when this will end.
“RIGHTSWAY calls for this case to be addressed immediately, without any further delay. None of those arrested did any more than attend a protest. They are not the only ones.
“The ‘group of striking mineworkers at OCTEA mining company in Kono’ – recently arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest after the shootings and killing of two innocent citizens, including a child – have also experienced torture and ill-treatment. Authorities are contravening national and international law with impunity.
“RIGHTSWAY calls for an independent Commission of Inquiry and the speedy investigation into the disappearance and death of Yeabu Beckley, and stressed that the finding that Police, Human Rights Commission and Paramount Chief hindered the investigation should be investigated.
“RIGHTSWAY is demanding an independent inquiry into the Police, Human Rights Commission and Paramount Chief’s role into the death of Yeabu.
The Sierra Leone government has an obligation under international law to conduct “a full, independent, impartial, thorough and effective investigation” into the Police, Human Rights and Paramount Chief’s role in such abuses, and the allegations “cannot be lawfully answered by sweeping denials”.
“The inquiry must establish whether any secret agreements were made, or otherwise bribery and corruption between the Police and the Paramount Chief were condoned.
“The inquiry must also include the failure of the Human Rights Commission to promptly investigate in the aftermath of Yeabu’s disappearance and death; whether there were abuse of power into the unlawful arrest and detention of those protesting the disappearance; and whether actions taken by the authorities concerned were sufficient to have prevented this unfortunate incident.
“RIGHTSWAY has also re-echoed its call for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Inspector General of Police – Munu and Senior Police Officers for alleged crimes against humanity, as RIGHTSWAY’s submissions and “communications” or ‘’complaints’’ are currently being reviewed by the ICC.
“RIGHTSWAY is demanding justice. Those allegedly connected to the disappearance and death of Yeabu Beckley must be apprehended, prosecuted and convicted.
“RIGHTSWAY call on the government to set-up a workable and fair compensation scheme for the families of victims.”
RIGHTSWAY: Tel: +232(0) 25 207030
Mob: +232(0)76 843346/ 78800486