Analysis

Human Rights On Trial in Sierra Leone

10 March 2006 at 05:17 | 3302 views

Deputy Editor Abdulai Bayaraytay, a former senior official of the Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) in Freetown briefly examines the health of the Sierra Leone human rights situation in this piece. His diagnosis: the patient is in a very critical condition.

By Abdulai Bayraytay

Media reports that erstwhile spokesman for the notorious Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, Michael Omrie Golley was recently beaten up and carted away in a Black Maria to continue to stand trial in court for an alleged coup plot aimed at overthrowing the Kabbah-led Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) government is not only scandalous, but yet another example of the lackadaisical approach in dealing with human rights issues in Sierra Leone.

This trend is particularly worrying taking into consideration that if at the end of the usual marathon court deliberations Golley is found not wanting, and that there is nothing against him and his colleague defendants because of trumped up charges that are politically motivated in the first place,they would have suffered for nothing.

History will however not forgive the likes of Omrie Golley, Paulo Bangura, Alieu Kamara and their cohorts who defied all informed reasoning in aiding and abetting the rebels and their junta collaborators in wreaking havoc on innocent and unsuspecting Sierra Leoneans all because they wanted to covet political power at all costs through “unconstitutional means”. One can only imagine how Golley was relaxing in his cozy habitat somewhere in the Europe pontificating over the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Network Africa or Focus on Africa programmes on behalf of the RUF. What a conspiracy against the state for personal aggrandizement!

A cursory reflection on some of the causes of Africa’s conflicts, particularly in the case of Sierra Leone that is still reeling from a dubious and debilitating ten-year-old war from 1991 to 2002, would remind us that one of the reasons advanced by the infamous, psychopathic and adventurous RUF rebels was to correct the notorious human rights violations of Sierra Leoneans by the All Peoples’ Congress party since the inception of one party politics in 1978 to the overthrow of the former in April, 1992 by the National Provisional Ruling council (NPRC), another criminal organization aided and abetted by some demented academics until its demise in 1996.

Of course, where the NPRC under the babyish Valentine Strasser and SAJ Musa era stopped in terms of human rights violations, (remember the Sithorpe street floggings and the hacking of hands because voters ventured to sack them through the ballot box?), the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) under the aegis of the so called political born-again Johnny Paul Koroma exerted their barbaric muscles in the hacking of limbs, public beatings and arson of properties of perceived pro-democracy supporters.

As such, what would make the democratically elected government of the SLPP potentially different from rogue regimes is when it strives to respect the fundamental human rights of its people. Therefore, any reneging of the above will be a contravention of provisions of Chapter Three, Subsection 20 (1) of the 1991 constitution that stipulates, “...no person shall be subject to any form of torture or any punishment or other treatment which is inhuman or degrading”.

From the foregoing, any responsible government would investigate allegations made by Omrie and other silent prisoners whose rights are routinely violated by unlawfulimprisonment just because the system is becoming gradually a shadow of its former self. This is especially so since there are outstanding human rights violations/cases investigations of the late For di People newspaper, editor Harry Yansaneh, former Immigration boss Newman Smart etc.

The looming question then is when will the SLPP government actualize its political song that prevention is way better than management through the setting up of nonsensical commissions of inquiry? Or, does that mean we have to wait until the death of say Omrie Golley and some other prison inmates in the hands of some irate and overzealous guards before action is taken? If the response is in the affirmative, then where does this leave Section 23 (4) of the same 1991 constitution that states “... every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until he is proved, or has pleaded guilty.”

Unless third world countries, including Sierra Leone for that matter, that are emerging from civil strife contend with the historic realities that wars do not happen in a vacuum and become ready to rule in accordance with provisions of their constitutions, the attainment and sustenance of peace, democracy and stability will be under stress. The attendant result would be the affirmation of the Hobbesian concept that where lawlessness reigns, bestiality will be the norm rather than the exception. Therefore, any human rights violation in Sierra Leone is deemed a violation of human rights everywhere, a sordid reminder that activists should focus their monitoring on prevention rather than management.

Photo: Omrie Golley,recently beaten in prison by prison guards.

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