Bar Association urges respect for rights of citizens

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July 25, 2018

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

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Bar Association President Ms. Basita Michael

The Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) has strongly admonished the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to respect rights of citizens and conduct themselves professionally within the limits of their statutory powers with regard to public order, arrest, detention, national security and the observance of human rights.

The admonition comes in the wake of a release put out by the SLP over the weekend in which they warned members of the public to desist from making misleading, disrespectful and inciting statements against the President’s executive orders and Government Transition Team report, among others.
The SLP expressed grave concern over the way and manner in which critical issues bordering on state security and public concern are being discussed/published in the electronic, print and social media, hence advising the public to desist from such act, which they say are in breach of the Public Order Act of 1965.

In a release dated July 23, and signed by General Secretary Ishmael Philip Mammie Esq, the Bar Association condemned the issuance of such press release, which they noted might have the effect of stifling freedom of expression.

“The Association is of the strong conviction that issues of national importance must be opened to debate and discussions by all citizens and there should be no attempt to impinge on lawful and reasonable criticisms or lawful dissenting opinions or comments,” the release stated.

The association is also concerned that the police might have misinterpreted provisions relating to reasonable justification, given the speculative circumstances highlighted in their press release.

According to the Bar Association, the police press release was very alarming and that it might create the impression that the SLP was trying to clamp down on any form of dissent and muzzle the press.

“The Association wishes to reiterate that the Constitution of Sierra Leone, guarantees with some exceptions, free speech and expression to all citizens,” the release added.While noting that it is the responsibility of the Sierra Leone police to maintain law and order throughout the country, the association stated that the police in their release did not provide any concrete evidence of statements that have a “tendency of creating tension, chaos and instability in society” as only general issues of national importance were mentioned in the release with no specific examples cited.The association also drew the attention of the SLP to the Independent Media Commission Act 2000, which sets up the Independent Media Commission (IMC), an autonomous body responsible for the regulation of the media in Sierra Leone.