Responding to the bloody repression of a protest in Makeni, which resulted in the killing of five protesters and injuring of a dozen on 18 July, Fatou Senghore, Regional Director of Article 19, West Africa said:
“What happened in Makeni this on July 18th is troubling. People were out in the street to exercise their right to protest. But the security forces responded with deadly force. We strongly condemn these unnecessary killings and attack against the freedom of expression and right to protest.
We call on the Government to immediately investigate and bring to justice those suspected to be involved in the deadly repression”.
According to hospital and international Media’s sources, at least five persons, including a 15-years-old teenager, were killed and a dozen injured. An unconfirmed number of people were reportedly arrested and the authorities imposed a night curfew in the city.
Hundreds of persons, main youths, were gathering in the city to protest the decision of the
Minister of Energy to relocate the locally based power generator to the Freetown International
Airport. When some protesters began throwing stones to the local office of the governing Sierra
Leone People’s Party, the police and army responded with excessive force. First, they fired live ammunition in the sky to disperse the protesters. Most ran away, but some continued to throw stones. Then the security forces fired into the crowd resulting in the deaths, which may amount to unlawful killings, and injuries.
“Sierra Leone has to protect the life and physical integrity of its citizens. There was no real and uncontrollable threat to life, so the security forces should never even have used their firearms. Why did they not do enough to de-escalate and respond to those who were throwing stones? It is unlawful to shoot at protesters solely to disperse them.”
Citizens have the right to contest a decision of public interest. The security forces should have limited their intervention to lawful means to stop those who used violence against a private office. Instead, they cracked down on the people with brutal and excessive force. People should never have to worry about their life when they go out on the streets to express contestingOpinions. “Fatou Senghore emphasized.
ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the use of disproportionate and excessive force, the use of lethal arms against unarmed protesters and the consequent deaths and injuries in violations of African and international laws and standards on the freedom of expression and rights to freedom of association and assembly. Under its own and international law, Sierra Leone is obliged to carry out prompt, effective, independent, and impartial investigations into deaths resulting from the use of force by the security forces.
“We further urge the authorities to unconditionally release all protesters who were arrested solely for their expression. No one should be arrested for exercising the right to protest. Anyone suspected of a criminal offence should be charged to court and guaranteed a fair trial.”