Free-Town, 9 August 2022: Eight victims of police shooting during a public protest in Makeni in July 2020 have sued Sierra Leone before the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (the ECOWAS Court) for accountability.
The suit filed 9 August 2022 by Counsel to the Plaintiffs, IHRDA, states that, in July 2020, Sierra Leone Minister of Energy decided to relocate an electricity generating power plant from Makeni in the northern part of Sierra Leone, to the Lungi International Airport in Freetown. In a bid to stop the transfer, fearing it would jeopardise electricity supply in Makeni, hundreds of people took to the streets and set up barricades. In response, police officers opened fire on protesters and persons thought to be protesters. This led to the death of six (6) persons and caused severe injuries to others.
The suit alleges that, due to lack of effective investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators, Sierra Leone has violated the victims’ right to remedy and access to justice, and has failed in its obligation to protect the victims from torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, as well as guaranteeing their rights to life and personal security. These are rights and obligations enshrined in several treaties to which Sierra Leone is party, notably the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.
“Inhabitants of Makeni who took to the street were simply exercising their right to protest. We believe the police could have used other lawful means to control the protest…. Through this suit, we hope that justice would be rendered and the perpetrators punished. This would help the Plaintiffs to heal from the pain”, IHRDA Senior Legal Officer, Oludayo Fagbemi, noted.
The Plaintiffs request the ECOWAS Court to declare Sierra Leone responsible for the alleged human rights violations; they equally request the Court to order Sierra Leone to conduct an effective investigation and prosecute perpetrators, as well as pay the victims monetary compensation for damages suffered, amongst other measures to prevent disproportionate use of force in responding to protests.
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) is a pan–African non-governmental organisation based in The Gambia and working to promote human rights in Africa and improve the effectiveness of the African Human Rights system.
For more information:
Contact: Oludayo Fagbemi, Senior Legal Officer; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel: +220 7751209
22 September 2023: Court notifies of hearing scheduled for 29 September 2023.
29 September 2023: Case called for hearing. Plaintiffs’ Counsel presents arguments in absence of Respondent. Case adjourned to 25 January 2024 for judgment.