By Alhaji Koroma
Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has called on the Government of Sierra Leone “to curtail the continued unlawful, arbitrary and unjustifiable detention of over 20 innocent Sierra Leonean female citizens by the criminal justice system.”
In a press release it issued out on 18th September, 2017, CHRDI noted that it has been informed that some of these citizens were arbitrarily arrested, have been detained unlawfully for over 48 months now without charges and have only attended trial once since 2017.”
According to Abdul Fatoma, his Institution “views this as flagrant violation of their human rights as guaranteed by section 23 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act no 6 of 1991 which provides the following:
(1) Whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence he shall unless the charge is withdrawn, be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established by law.
(2) Any court or other authority prescribed by law for the determination of the existence or extent of civil rights or obligations shall be independent and impartial; and where proceedings for such determination are instituted by or against any person or authority or the Government before such court or authority, the case shall be given fair hearing within a reasonable time.”
The press release also pointed out that CHRDI has been notified through reports that these female prisoners are being kept in very cramped and degrading conditions at the Freetown female correctional centre where they are awaiting trial.
“78 of them are being kept within a space that was meant for not more than 10 people, forcing most of them to sleep on the floor.
We are aware that many prisons and jails in the country expose prisoners to dangerous environmental conditions like extreme heat or cold, contaminated food, and a lack of basic sanitation. We are concerned that such overcrowding in prisons would only lead to increased violence, and the delivery of poor and inadequate medical care and other essential services.”
It highlighted the issue of lack of pipe borne water, poor toilets facilities and only one Doctor to check for health problems, substandard meals, poorly trained guards and prison administrators.
“Correctional Facilities in Sierra Leone are clearly supporting the popular notion that the justice system is built solely for punishment and not for rehabilitation.
This is not the enlightened approach to penology which is reform geared towards a subsequent productive life upon reentry to the community.
It is a throwback to the 18th century that treated prisoners as animals unfit to renew themselves and rejoin society.
Herding individuals in cramped spaces is a cruel, inhuman, degrading, and unjust punishment. Overcrowding is dangerous to health and to human life.
It breeds diseases, breaks down discipline and exacerbates tensions,” it furthered.
CHRDI believed that “the unlawful detention of these citizens is in violation of their constitutional and human rights and dignity.
To detain citizens without trial for prolonged periods with no regard for due process is in clear violation of the laws of Sierra Leonean and other international Human Rights Instruments.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one may be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or imprisonment.
All defendants have the right to fair and speedy trial. It is the responsibility of government to respect the rights of its citizens.”
Therefore, Campaign for Human Rights and Development International, calls on the Government of Sierra Leone to immediately release all detainees who have not been charged with legitimate criminal offences and to respect the constitutional rights of detainees and grant speedy trial to those who have been charged, in compliance with the Laws of Sierra Leone and other international laws.