By Ragan M. Conteh
Amnesty International (AI) and the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) have vehemently condemn the brutal killings of peaceful protesters in the Northern city of Makeni by the security forces that used live ammunition and teargas canisters to disperse protesters against the relocation of the standby generator from the city to Lungi.
According to AI, five protesters were reportedly killed in the incident whilst dozens suffered injuries.
The Director of AI Sierra Leone Section, Solomon Sogbandi said: “We are very disgusted, shocked and disappointed when we understood that many people were killed in Makeni city and they died of gunshot wounds. The ugly scene of Sierra Leone Police using live ammunition against largely peaceful protesters is a violation of International Law, and this is what we have been talking about over the years in terms of police brutality and accountability in this country.”
Solomon Sogbandi said the police used live ammunition which resulted to the death or injury of some of the protesters. He cautioned the police to demonstrate more professionalism as their action was in breach of the United Nations Guidelines for Law Enforcement, which states clearly that the police should only use live ammunition when their lives and the lives of those under their protection are at risk.
On behalf of AI, Mr. Sogbandi appealed to the high command of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and the Government for a speedy and unbiased investigation revealing those who authorized the use of the fire arms.
The Director also drew the attention of the police to only use force when it is necessary to maintain public order, adding that “the police failed to live up to this standard.”
He said the police were supposed to have used clubs, teargas, water canon or even rubber bullets instead of using live ammunition as they have done most of the time.
According to Solomon Sogbandi, after ten years of research, Amnesty International launched a report called “Force for Good” that catalogued police brutality and impunity in Sierra Leone.
He said the report harped on all what the police had been doing to people over the years, especially the killings of unsuspecting protesters.
Mr. Sogbandi averred that a government enquiry is always held with a report launched but nothing happens to the recommendations of the report. He said the police have been showing unprofessionalism in public order management, and that anytime people want to protest, they would meet some violent resistance.
AI therefore urged the police not to repeat such violence against peaceful protesters. It also reminded the police that using force against protesters that have been brought under control is unlawful.
Similarly, the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), a national civil society human rights and development organization on Tuesday 21st July, 2020 strongly condemned the recent killings of protesting civilians in Makeni city by some personnel of the Sierra Leone Police.
NMJD also called on the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) to institute impartial investigations into the deaths, publish the findings and take necessary actions to promote justice and peaceful coexistence for all in Sierra Leone.