Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 December 2023:
The United States Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation yesterday refused to grant-aid $450 million of funding to the Bio-led government of Sierra Leone, in response to the deteriorating democratic space and serious human rights abuses in the country.
“…the Board reselected Sierra Leone as eligible to continue developing a compact in recognition of the progress made to advance the national dialogue process, begin implementation of the Agreement for National Unity, and establish the national election review committee.
“These actions constitute a critical beginning of an inclusive process to strengthen Sierra Leone’s democratic and electoral institutions following the June 2023 elections.
“In making its re-selection decision, the Board noted its expectation of continued progress toward meaningful electoral reform, as outlined in the Agreement for National Unity, prior to considering approval of the proposed compact,” a statement published by the MCC Board reads.
But serious concerns are tonight being raised by critics of the Bio-led government, not only about the deliberate backsliding by the government in its commitment to the terms of the Agreement for National Unity, but also the curtailing of civil liberty since the alleged attempted coup of 26 November 2023.
Yesterday, the country’s judiciary called for the arrest of Dr Samura Kamara, the opposition APC’s 2023 presidential candidate to be handed over to the Anti-Corruption Commission for investigation. This clearly is in violation of a fundamental term, if not a breach of the spirit of the National Unity Agreement signed between the government and the opposition APC, which calls for the ending of all politically motivated prosecutions.
According to the government, over 60 people have now been arrested and locked up behind bars, pending the outcome of investigations into the alleged attempted coup, a move that has been described as political witch-hunt.
However, none of those detained since 26 November 2023 have been charged to court with any offence. This is clearly a violation of their human rights, as enshrined in CHAPTER III, Section 17 of the country’s 1991 Constitution.
Section 17 states that “(1) No person shall be deprived of his personal liberty except as may be authorised by law in any of the following cases, that is to say — a. in consequence of his unfitness to plead to a criminal charge;
Or b. in the execution of a sentence or order of a Court whether in Sierra Leone or elsewhere in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been convicted;
Or c. in the execution of an order of the High Court or the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court or such other court as may be prescribed by Parliament on the grounds of his contempt of any such court or of another court or tribunal or commission of inquiry as the case may be;
Or d. in the execution of an Order of a court made in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation imposed on him by law;
or e. for the purpose of bringing him before a court or tribunal, as the case may be, in execution of the order of a court;
or f. upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed or of being about to commit a criminal offence; etc.
Section 17 (2) states that any person who— a. is arrested or detained shall be informed in writing or in a language that he understands at the time of his arrest, and in any event not later than twenty-four hours, of the facts and grounds for his arrest or detention;
b. is arrested or detained shall be informed immediately at the time of his arrest of his right of access to a legal practitioner or any person of his choice, and shall be permitted at his own expense to instruct without delay a legal practitioner of his own choice and to communicate with him confidentially.
Section 17 (3) also states that any person who is arrested or detained in such a case as is mentioned in paragraph (e) or (f) of subsection (1) and who is not released shall be brought before a court of law— a. within ten days from the date of arrest in cases of capital offences, offences carrying life imprisonment and economic and environmental offences;
And b. within seventy-two hours of his arrest in case of other offences; and if any person arrested or detained in such a case as is mentioned in the said paragraph (f) is not tried within the periods specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section, as the case may be, then without prejudice to any further proceedings which may be brought against him he shall be released either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions, including in particular, such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date for trial or proceedings preliminary to trial.
It is now 17 days and none of the 26 November detainees have been charged to court or subjected to bail conditions. This is in violation of their human rights as suspects of an alleged crime.
There are calls for the detainees to be either released immediately or charged to court.
The latest MCC 2024 Scorecard for Sierra Leone speaks volumes about the government’s appalling record since taking office in 2018. These are some of the highlights:
Fiscal Policy (management of government spending and taxation): Score -7.9, Median score for all countries is -4.1, and in 2018 Sierra Leone scored -4, a decline of -3.9.
Regulatory Quality: Score -0.11, Median 0.00 (2018: 0)
Political Rights: Score 27, Minimum 17 (2018: 29)
Civil Liberties: Score 36, Minimum 25 (2018: 39)
Control of Corruption: Score 0.54, Median 0.00 (2018: 0.5)
Government Effectiveness: Score -0.13, Median 0.00 (2018: 0.0)
Rule of Law: Score 0.19, Median 0.00 (2018: 0.25)
Freedom of Information: Score 64.6, Median 53.7 (2018: 75)
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