August 7, 2015 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
The Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) has called on the government of Sierra Leone to ‘satisfactorily’ compensate alleged army mutineers that were acquitted and discharged by a military tribunal Wednesday after almost two years in detention.
The organisation’s Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy, told journalists at a press conference yesterday, 6 August, that while they hail the verdict of the Court Martial which acquitted and discharged the 13 military personnel, the government should compensate them for eight months of illegal detention without trial.
Tommy maintained that the men had spent too long a time behind bars, thus violating their rights. He said 18 military personnel were initially arrested by the government in August 2013 and held in detention for nearly eight months instead of the 10-day period stipulated in the constitution.
“This is a great victory for justice. But at the same time we call on the government to compensate the 18 alleged mutineers not because they were tried for two years but because they were detained illegally for eight months without trial,” Tommy said. “We also urge the government to provide moral support to all of them as they attempt to reunite with their family after two years of painful separation.”
Only 14 of the soldiers were eventually charged to court, although one was acquitted and discharged for want of evidence after the preliminary hearing.
CARL’s executive director opines that the state should apologise to the military men and to take appropriate measures to address any psychological and other health problems they may be suffering before they resume work.
“This is a very serious violation which must not be overlooked in a country that prides itself on respect of human rights and rule of law,” insisted CARL’s project coordinator, Moses Massa, adding “The state whose responsibility is to protect the rights of its citizens cannot be allowed to violate those rights with impunity. It is time to end impunity at all levels, including violation committed by the state.”
When Concord Times contacted Abdulai Bayraytay, National Coordinator in the Office of the Government Spokesperson, for the position of the government, he referred our reporter to the Director of Public Relation and Information at the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Usman Turay, who disputed the government or army has any obligation to compensate the men.
Colonel Turay said in a telephone interview that, “Compensating the freed mutineers for what? It is not part of the military law. The offence they were charged with was a very serious one. Our duty was to ensure free and fair trial which we did.”