HRCSL urges dismissal of crude police officers
April 15, 2021
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) has called on the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to immediately institute an internal investigation into the conduct of some police officers who were seen in a video manhandling a female student, and that if found wanton should immediately be dismissed from the force.
The commission in a statement also called on the Sierra Leone to immediately release on bail, all students of the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), who are in their custody pending any investigations.
They further called on the SLP to always be professional in their line of duty and refrain from using excessive force in quelling down riots and protests, adding that extreme care be exercised in dealing with women and girls at all times in such situations.
The press statement was signed by Victor I. Lansana Esq., Vice Chairperson of HRCSL.
The commission raised concern about the spontaneous violence that erupted on 12th April, 2021 between protesting students on IPAM campus and the SLP following the publication of a partial list of would-be graduates published by the college administration on the said date.
“As a statutory institution mandated to protect and promote human rights of all in Sierra Leone, HRCSL has been monitoring both mainstream and social media and has subsequently engaged key stakeholders to fully grasp the factors that led to the protest.HRCSL undertook a fact-finding mission to the college campus (IPAM), the Central Police Station and the Kingtom Police Hospital and engagements were held with the Students Union Executive and other students who are not necessarily members of the Student Union Government, the Deputy Registrar, Examination Officer, the Senior Assistant Finance Officer, Lockup and Crime Officers at Central Police Station, and the Medical Superintendent at the Kingtom Police Hospital and others,” the release states.
The HRCSL established that a partial list of would-be graduates was published by the college administration which contained about 350 names when over a thousand students are expected to graduate and that following the protest, a second list was published later in the afternoon but was also found to be faulty as students who had left the University were also included on the list while the actual students were not listed.
They further established the issues of missing grades and also reference examinations which were only conducted on Saturday with only four days left to the proposed graduation ceremony scheduled for the 14th April, 2021 and in addition, there were also issues of outstanding reference exams to be taken.
Also, the commission found out that there were students who were yet to fulfil their financial obligations with the University, and that there were insufficient academic gowns in supply by the college administration which some students had already paid for.
The said development infuriated the students and that they failed to exhaustively engage the relevant stakeholders in the university and then took the laws into their hands.
“The police on the other hand failed to apply professionalism in handling the situation on their arrival at the scene which led to the manhandling of a female student by several police officers as captured in a video widely circulated on social media and five students were also arrested and detained including the female student mentioned above. There were delays in the publication of sessional and final results which created uncertainty on the part of the students as to their status or level in their respective courses of study and there were also delays in the verification of entry requirements results.”
The commission further stated that they had agreed with the Academic staff of the University to improve the conditions of service of lecturers with an increment of 75% to be applied incrementally effective end of April 2021.
HRCSL recommended that the University should postpone the graduation ceremony until the outstanding issues have been substantially settled so as to avoid any further incident and give opportunity to parents and sponsors to witness the graduation of their children or beneficiaries.
They also recommended that exam scripts be marked on time and grades published to allow students know their status as they progress from one level to the other and final grades verified and published way before date of graduation.
Also,both academic and administrative staff should endeavor to be professional in ensuring that students’ grades do not go missing and the University should ensure that the grading system is digitized as it obtains in many other Universities.
They also called on students to use existing structures within and without the university including HRCSL in seeking redress and should always resist any temptation to take the law into their hands.
HRCSL called on the police in particular to exercise restraints as professionals whenever engaging the public as required by ‘UN Guiding Principles on the Use of Firearms’ and also the ‘UN Code of Conducts for Law Enforcement Officials.