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Sierra Leone
Friday, May 20, 2022

Eight months in detention…

Gov’t scolded over delayed trial of alleged mutineers

Exccutive Director of Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law Sierra Leone (CARL-SL) has, in an exclusive interview with Concord Times, charged that government’s alleged lack of funds for the trial of 14 alleged mutineers was a spurious excuse which violates the rights of the soldiers, who he said have diligently served the country. The men were at the time deployed at the Teko Barracks in Makeni, hometown of President Ernest Bai Koroma.

The 14 non-commissioned officers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces were arrested in August, 2013, for their alleged involvement in what the government and army bosses said was an alleged aborted mutiny.

Following a month of joint investigations by the Military Intelligence Branch and detectives at the Criminal Investigations Department, government noted that there was incontrovertible evidence against the officers, and that they would be charged to court.

Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Frank Kargbo, had given assurance that the alleged mutineers would be tried in a court martial.

However, after having spent almost eight months in prison without trial, the Director of Public Relations and Communications at the Ministry of Defence, Colonel Michael Samura, told Concord Times in an exclusive interview last month that the delay was as a result of lack of funding from government.

Also, while reacting to a strongly worded letter written by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone pertaining to the unprecedented delay to try the alleged mutineers, the Attorney-General again confirmed in a BBC interview that government was constrained to provide the required funds to commence the trial, although he added that the latter was doing all it could to ensure the trial begins.

The issue has now caught the eyes of leading rights campaigners in the country, including CARL-SL’s Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy, who did not mince his words to condemn the blatant violation of a fundamental human right of a group of Sierra Leoneans, in flagrant violation of the 1991 Constitution.

“It is quite disturbing that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice keeps saying that the officers who were arrested and detained and are still detained more than four, five months ago, cannot be tried because of lack of funding. I think it is completely inexcusable,” he said, adding that, “You cannot delay the course of justice because of lack of funding in this context.”

Tommy said he understands the fact that government faces a lot of constraints relating to funding, but noted that the state should consider the liberty and fundamental rights of people who have served the country, regardless of the allegations against them.

“The state is under an unqualified obligation to bring them to justice within a reasonable period of time. The fact that they keep saying they don’t have funding raises the question as to why they arrested the officers when they knew there is not a structured mechanism or at least funding to bring them to justice,” the outspoken rights advocate quipped.

He described the treatment of the officers as “grossly unfair and unjust” as the state cannot be seen to be condoning or perpetuating injustice in its worst form. “Nothing is worse than keeping your people in prison and for you to start saying you do not have funds to bring them to justice,” he said.

Tommy maintained that the accused persons have a life to live and that government should ensure that their trial is fair and conducted in an expeditious manner so as to uphold their fundamental human rights.

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