By Emmanuel Gborie
The reasons from different sources of the police as to why he ( Alhaji Amadu Bah, aka L.A.J) was treated inhumanly, his hair shaved and tortured is very unbelievable, ear-breaking, confusing and contradictory to a point that even my old grandmother in the village who has never seen a car or visited the city can tell that such excuses are hoax and disrespectful to the ordinary Sierra Leonean.
Leaving that aside, my real concern is that issues like this clearly shows the nations hypocritical and bogus commitment on critical areas of human rights laws and the question we should begin to ask ourselves is, are we really serious about changing the face of things as a nation in going forward and rising to international expectations? As we speak, our nation’s human rights record is nothing good to write home about and it is very alarming for a nation that brags about its commitment in improving human rights.
The Sierra Leone 2020 and 2021 Human Rights reports stated clearly in the Executive Summary that there are “significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful and arbitrary killings by government; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by government or on behalf of government; hash and life threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention, serous government corruption, etc.
Section 1 of the same documents which featured “Respect for the Integrity of Person” in Sub Section C states clearly that THE LAW prohibits such practices: Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and in this section it is captured that “the (HRCSL) called for investigation of SLP use of excessive force during a student protest at IPAM in April….and the IPCB investigates police misconduct. In terms of Prison and Detention Center Conditions, the Sub Section further states that Prison and detention center conditions were hash and life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, an insufficient justice system, physical abuse amongst others.
The most frustrating aspect of everything is that nobody seems to care; worst, the current administration still refuses to take responsibility and consequently similar things keep, repeating, the L.A.J issue being the recent. If only we are committed to human rights then the police should be questioned and take full responsibility for their actions. If the law is supreme and we have respect for it why then is no action taken to correct persistent police brutality? Why the lies and the cover ups of their blunders?
In a Press statement released by Legal Link on the 17th June, 2022, the organization which defends the right of vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone condemns the act of shaving L.A.Js hair without his consent calling it unlawful and taking greatest exception to this unprofessional conduct of the SLP, and therefore calls on the IPCB to open up an impartial and independent investigation over this inhumane and degrading treatment of a suspect held in detention.
The statement further states that it was emphasized during the HRCSL trainings which was held and in line with the UN Basic Principles on the use of force and firearms for over 30 Local Unit Commanders (LUCs) in the country that even where provoked, the repelling force to be expelled must be equal, reasonable, proportionate and necessary in the given circumstance.
My question now is, was the shaving of LAJ’s hair lawful, or in line with the UN principles and necessary for the given circumstance? Your answer I guess is the same as mine, a big NO. So, I resolve then with the fact that we are yet miles away from the development and global admiration we profess in certain quarters, especially when looking at what we’ve gone through and where we are coming from as a nation.