Sierra Leone: 'Arrest of Five Citizens Is a Worrying Moment'

19 September 2019

Director of Amnesty International-Sierra Leone, Solomon Sogbandi, has described the arrest of five citizens by the Sierra Leone as a worrying moment and trend, as well as a cause for concern to his right based organisation.

Police have arrested five people who they claimed were part of a Concerned Citizens group that have threatened to stage a peaceful protest with regards the current economic trend in the country. Police have claimed that they received intelligence that the said Concerned Citizens had planned to cause mayhem, hence urged all to desist from any form of protest.

In an exclusive interview with this medium, Solomon Sogbandi argued that:" For the fact that we are in a democracy, government should provide the space for citizens to exercise their rights and freeoms.And if we have a situation in which citizens want to exercise that right, government should provide that space."

He said although Sierra Leone was making progress in terms of her democratic credentials, but that the country still has some draconian laws including Section 17 (1) and Section 22 to 24 of the 1965 Public Order Act, which restrict the right to peaceful protest.

He expressed appreciation for the steps taken by cabinet to approve the expulsion of the Criminal and Seditious libel aspect of the Public Order Act, but reiterated that there are still killer provisions in the Act, especially the aspect that deals with 'procession'.

He maintained that the arrest of five citizens was really unfortunate and that citizens are only oblige to inform police about a planned protest and not to seek approval from them.

He reiterated that Section 17 (1) of the Public Order Act only directs citizens to inform police about a planned protest and not to seek their approval,but stated that police have over the years taken advantage of the said provision to restrict citizens from exercising their fundamental human rights.

He called on government to also consider expunging Part 3 of the Public Order Act and other aspects of the said Act.

He charged that sierra Leoneans voted on the platform of change and that there should be a radical departure from what used to happen in the past, especially having to do with the activities of the police.

Rating the country's democracy,Sogbandi told Concord that government has made some little amount of efforts in some areas, but noted that "our democracy is still creeping especially with police excesses."

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