March 31, 2021
By Kelvin Morgan
Christian Lawyers Centre (LEGAL LINK) has identified what they referred to as 21 scary details in the cybercrime bill that is currently before the House of Parliament for enactment.
Director of LEGAL LINK, Lawyer Rashid Dumbuya,yesterday addressed newsmen in a press conference organised at their 89 Fort Street office in Freetown, on the theme “21 scary things you need to know about cybercriminal bill” before it is passed into law.
Lawyer Rashid Dumbuya said he had been able to do critical examination of the proposed cybercrime bill, bringing out its implications on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens in the state and beyond.
He said one of the risks enshrouded in the Bill is the transformation of the Minister of Information and Communications into a demi – god and chief judge of the state, with the minister having powers to prescribe punishments that should be meted out on convicted persons under the Bill by way of regulations.
The LEGAL LINK boss said the Bill does not define who an authorized person is while the proposed Cybercrime Bill gives many powers to an ‘authorized person‟ in the area of search and seizure.
“It is interesting to note, however, that, an authorized person is not defined under the interpretation section of the Act,” he said, adding that the said omission leaves room for speculations as to who that authorized person will be.
He added that such authorized persons might even include forest guards, marshals, ONS officers, and OSD officers, among others.
He further mentioned that the proposed Cybercrime Bill contains offences with no accompanied penalties and sanctions and prescribe penalties for the many criminal offences that are mentioned under the bill.
He opined that the bill would also invade into the private rights and activities of diasporas under Section 13 and 14 of the proposed Bill.
“The Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone is empowered to request from a foreign state assistance that is aimed at investigating or prosecuting offences under this bill; or collecting electronic evidence related to an offence punishable under the laws of Sierra Leone,” he said.
He said the Cybercrime Bill makes room for foreign interference, breach of security, public interest and territorial sovereignty of Sierra Leone.
He claimed that politics looms large in the nomination of the National Cyber Security Coordinator as it is stated in the proposed Cybercrime Bill under section 47 (1),which gives the Minister power to nominate the National Cyber Security Coordinator.
He said there is no clear guidelines as to how the nomination will be done in a fair and non-partisan manner, thus noting that the Cybercrime Bill is a wolfs in sheep’s clothing set up to target WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users, who might express dissenting opinions and criticisms.