By Alhaji Haruna Sani
Civil Society Organisations (CSOS), including the Amnesty International Sierra Leone, Human Rights Defenders Network-SL and Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) have requested the judiciary to immediately release Edmond Abu Jr. within the bounds of the law.
The CSOs made their plea in a press release they issued on Wednesday January 11.
Edmond Abu Jr., who is the Executive Director of Native Consortium and Research Centre, was on Monday January 9 arrested and detained for contempt.
Edmond Abu Jr. is a seasoned activist with a historic background of public interest advocacy, targeting goods and services like fuel and telecoms and has empowered the public with vital information on essential commodities.
The CSOs mentioned that they were particularly concerned in the light of the impressive strides recorded by the Bio administration in providing space and opportunity for citizens to air their views as evidenced by the repeal of the seditious libel law, among other developments in the last few years.
“While we are cognizant of the need to protect the sanctity and integrity of the courts and their inherent powers therein, we are also mindful of the concomitant effects of the discretionary exercise of judicial powers especially on shrinking space for human rights defenders and other citizens,” the statement reads.
The CSOs state that human right defenders and citizens should be provided the space and opportunity to freely express their views and engage in acts of legitimate dissent as provided for by the laws of Sierra Leone, including the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act no. 6 of 1991.
They urged activists and human rights defenders to practise their craft within the bounds of the law.
“We also implore state agencies especially the judiciary to exercise restraint and dialogue in dealing with citizens and their expression of rights as established by law.”
The organisations went on to state that sending an activist to prison for 21 days without proven case of contempt could be perceived as intimidation of human rights defenders and lead to silencing of watchdog institutions.
“We also wish to call on the judiciary to adopt a more proactive approach in educating citizens especially activists and journalists on what constitutes CONTEMPT, with a view to building stronger partnerships and relationships between and among different sectors in society. This is even more imperative in view of the growth of social media and the dawning 2023 elections later this year”.