Sierra Leone is back on the agenda of the International Criminal Court (ICC), despite a painful recovery from a brutal ten year civil war that left hundreds of thousands dead.
Although several key instigators and perpetrators of the civil war were held responsible for the heinous crimes committed against humanity, and brought to justice by the ICC, it seems few lessons, if at all, have been learnt.
The ruling APC party dictatorship which came to power in 1967, and ruled the country until it was kicked out of office by the military in 1992, unleashed unprecedented levels of violence on its own people. Today, it seems history is beginning to repeat itself.
By the time the military took over in 1992, Sierra Leone had been declared a failed state, and one of the most dangerous countries in the world, as law and order crumbled.
Opposition politicians were terrorised by the state, arrested and executed, because they stood up against corruption, dictatorship and the abuse of power with impunity. The ruling APC was determined to stay in power by all means necessary.
Sierra Leone is today on the edge of returning to its brutal and violent past, as politicians once again incite and provide oxygen for a new wave of political violence, that is becoming all too frequent and lethal.
Since coming to power in 2007, president Koroma has failed to control lawlessness and state impunity. Political violence is on the rise. Law and order is steadily declining.
But today, the International Criminal Court has been put on notice, and Sierra Leone is back on the ICC watch list.
Writing to the ICC, the human rights group in Sierra Leone – Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), said: “Sierra Leoneans are being killed, tortured and raped and their properties looted, burnt or destroyed by people claiming to be supporters of political parties. We are also of the view that some are violations that amount to war crimes, while the perpetrators are enjoying impunity.”
This is CHRDI’s letter sent to the ICC:
Dear Madam Fatou Bensouda,
RE: OPEN LETTER TO THE CHIEF PROSECUTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC)
We are drawing your attention to a number of issues that we believe implicate your mandate as authorised by the 1998, Rome treaty.
We in Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) are of the view that the office of the prosecutor should now take several actions to ensure accountability for serious crimes against humanity, such as those being perpetrated through political intimidation and violence in Sierra Leone.
Madam, we are of the conviction that the country’s current political climate of violence, harassment and intimidation of people perceived to have political affiliation with the leading main active opposition party is undermining the country’s effort in the peace building process.
Sierra Leoneans are being killed, tortured and raped and their properties looted, burnt or destroyed by people claiming to be supporters of political parties. We are also of the view that some are violations that amount to war crimes, while the perpetrators are enjoying impunity.
Since January 2012, following the violent ‘Fourah Bay Community’ by-election, CHRDI has continued to closely monitor the political situation in the country. We have issued several press releases, statements, and our research has shown on-going violations of international laws amid a climate of impunity, arbitrary detentions and tortures.
We believe that many of these violations are sufficiently organised and widespread to amount to crimes against humanity.
Madam prosecutor, we urge you to continue to reiterate your judicial mandate and your commitment to the independent and impartial implementation of that mandate in all your public statements.
CHRDI believes that the office of the Prosecutor has the mandate to address the concerns of the victims in Sierra Leone. The Government of Sierra Leone has not been able to put a stop to such abuses, let alone hold those responsible to account as it has pledged in the Public Enquiries on Political violence from 2012 to date.
In April this year (2016), the country’s law enforcement agency (police) brutally assaulted and arrested supporters of the country’s main opposition party, on allegations of riotous conduct.
The Police fired tear gas into their office, where they had peacefully gathered to celebrate their party’s anniversary. Excessive and indiscriminate violence was used against peaceful citizens of all ages. Several people were injured and over 22 people were arrested and charged to court.
CHRDI also strongly condemns the recent political violence that was unleashed in Kono, Kenema and Kailahun, all in the Eastern region, Bombali and Port Loko in the Northern region and in Freetown, the Western Area, by political actors and their agents.
We call for the arrest and prosecution of any individual found to have remotely or actively aided and abetted these occurrences.
While we condemn all deliberate attacks on civilians, including politicians and their supporters, the Police should also not enjoy impunity for doing likewise.
We are therefore drawing your attention to a number of issues that we believe implicate your mandate as authorised by the Rome Statute on 17 July 1998, in force on 1 July 2002, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 2187, No. 38544, Depositary: Secretary-General of the United Nations and the following Articles of the Roma Status: 1, 4 and 15;
“An International Criminal Court (“the Court”) is hereby established. It shall be a permanent institution and shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute, and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions”.
Article 4 – Legal status and powers of the Court
“The Court may exercise its functions and powers, as provided in this Statute, on the territory of any State Party and, by special agreement on the territory of any other State.”
Article 15 -1-2
“The Prosecutor may initiate investigations ‘proprio motu’ on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”
“The Prosecutor shall analyse the seriousness of the information received. For this purpose, he or she may seek additional information from States, organs of the United Nations, intergovernmental or non- governmental organizations, or other reliable sources that he or she deems appropriate, and may receive written or oral testimony at the seat of the Court.”
We hope you look into our concerns above and look forward to hearing from you soon.
Abdul M Fatoma
Note: Campaign for Human Rights and Development Sierra Leone (CHRDSL) is a Rights based social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights. CHRDSL is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies
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