A British human rights organization –Article 19–has “strongly condemned the use of disproportionate and excessive force, the use of lethal arms against unarmed protesters and the consequent deaths “. The organization takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.
Article 19 monitors threats to free expression around the globe.
HERE IS WHAT THEY SAID OF THE MAKENI MASSACRE
What happened in Makeni this weekend 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.
Sierra Leone has the duty 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 contesting opinions. ”
According to hospital and international medias 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, mainly 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.
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.