November 28, 2017 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone has urged the Sierra Leone Police and Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to ensure that suspects are not held beyond the constitutional detention limits by expediting investigations and processing indictments timely.
In its 2016 report of the State of Human Rights in Sierra Leone, the commission stated that during monitoring of police cells across the country, they observed that suspects were detained beyond the constitutional time limit of three (3) and ten (10) days for minor and serious offences respectively.
According to the report, the SLP cited inadequate personnel to handle the huge number of cases, delays in the investigation of cases due to lack of witnesses and the irregular sittings of Magistrates’ Court and delay in the review of cases by the office of the DPP as some of the factors responsible for prolonged detention of suspects.
“The commission is concerned that the detention of suspects beyond the constitutional time limit of three and ten days undermines the enjoyment of the right to liberty and security of the person,” the report stated.
At the Panlap Police Station, it was observed that three juveniles had been in custody for five days on allegations of larceny, adding that on April 27 last year 26 supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) were detained at the Criminal Investigation Department for over ten (10) days.
The report further stated that the detention of suspects beyond the time limit contravenes section 17(3) of the 1991 Constitution which states that: “any person who is arrested or detained in such a case as mentioned and who is not released shall be brought before a court of law within ten days for capital offences and seventy-two hours in case of other offences”.
With regards the conditions of detention facilities, the report observed that in six police detention facilities, the general sanitary conditions were poor, cells overcrowded and had inadequate bedding, poor ventilation and deplorable toilet facilities.
The hierarchy of the police was also urged to conduct regular refresher training for their personnel on rights-based approach to policing and pay close attention to the conduct of officers during operations to ensure they maintain the highest professional standards at all times.