Deputy Chairman and Leader of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has accused the Sierra Leone Police of gross human rights violation after the detention without trial of 26 of their members who were arrested at the party’s headquarters during independence celebrations on 27 April.
During a presser at the party’s Wallace-Johnston Street headquarters in Freetown last Saturday,Dr. Prince Alex Harding accused the police of targeting their party’s secretariat and unleashing teargas canisters and live bullets against their supporters, causing grievous bodily harm to some and arresting scores who are yet to be released or charged to court. He described the development as ‘unfortunate, undemocratic and a gross violation against humanity.’
“Among the 26 detainees is a 78-year-old man by the name of Pa. Lahai Kamara who is presently in a critical condition and has been hospitalised at the Kingtom Police Hospital in Freetown. Pa Lahai, who is severely hypertensive, was mercilessly beaten by the Police and manhandled on the 27th April and since his incarceration has been persistently refused his medication by the Police at the Central Police Station. The public will also recall that this act of unlawful arrests and detention of party members has been the hallmark of intimidation of SLPP members by this APC Government. Since 2011, several of our members still continue to attend courts for trumped-up charges levied against them by this APC government,” he stated.
Dr. Harding called on the government and the police hierarchy to unconditionally release all those incarcerated ‘unlawfully without further delay or charge those detained to court as required by law.’
“To avoid a situation of unrest and to continue to maintain peace and stability, the SLPP also entreat Civil Society Organisations and international development partners to monitor and report on the continued human rights abuses by the APC Government against SLPP members. The Police have continued to detain our members in flagrant violation of Section17 (3) (b) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone1991, Act No.6 of 1991,” he further charged.
He noted that the said provision stipulates that “any person who is arrested or detained shall be brought before a court of law, not later than seventy-two hours of his or her arrest in case of misdemeanors. In flagrant violation of this important constitutional provision, the 26 detainees have neither been released nor charged to court. To the membership of the SLPP, the National Secretariat will continue to encourage you to remain calm and be resolved that no amount of intimidation will survive our actions. The National Executive is doing everything humanly possible within the law and democratic tenets towards the release of our members,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Pa Lahai Kamara is reportedly undergoing treatment at the Police Hospital in Kingtom and is said to be in a critical condition.
He and 25 other opposition supporters have been in police detention since their arrest on 27 April at their headquarters, after the police refused them permission to celebrate with a masquerade on the streets.
Four other opposition supporters, including National Women’s Leader Lulu Sheriff were charged with riotous conduct and have been released on bail.
Local Unit Commander of Central Police Station, Maxwell Maco Sesay, confirmed that one of SLPP detainees had been taken to the police hospital and was in a critical condition, but refused to comment further.