United States Slams Sierra Leone over Human Rights Abuses

The United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has released its 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Sierra Leone.

The report highlight several human right lapses committed by countries and their governments across the world in 2021.

In Sierra Leone, Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government or on behalf of government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious government corruption; existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although the laws were not enforced; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.

According to the report, there were several credible reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In April the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) shot and killed an unarmed youth in the capital city of Freetown during a student protest. Authorities arrested and dismissed the four police officers allegedly involved in the killing, and as of September they were standing trial.

The report also notes that Impunity remained a significant problem in the security forces, notably in the SLP. Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and sometimes life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, an inefficient justice system, lack of sufficient correctional facilities and personnel, physical abuse, lack of clean water, inadequate sanitary conditions, and a lack of proper medical care in prison facilities.

The US department also added that the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the HRCSL indicated that the SLP and chiefdom police occasionally arrested and detained persons arbitrarily, including members of opposition parties.

“There were reports of individuals held for questioning without being promptly informed of the reason for the arrest. The SLP and the chiefdom police held suspects in detention cells without explanation for up to three days for suspected misdemeanors and up to 10 days for suspected felonies. Chiefs sometimes subjected both adults and children to arbitrary detention and imprisoned them unlawfully in their homes or “chiefdom jails.” The Human Rights Commission reported cases of illegal detentions at several police stations and the Freetown Male Correctional Center.”, the report added.

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