SOLOMON EKUMA BEREWA IS NOT FIT TO BE PRESIDENT OF SIERRA LEONE BECAUSE OF HIS ABYSMAL HUMAN RIGHTS RECORDS………THURSDAY JULY 12, 2007
THE CHARISMATIC AND DYNAMIC APC SECRETARY GENERAL, VICTOR FOH
By Victor Bockarie Foh Culled from the files of the TRC
The Role of the Attorney General (Mr. Solomon Ekuma Berewa) and the Use of the Word ‘Collaborator’
915. Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 diluted the rules of criminal procedure and evidence in relation to trials in which the subject matter of which was connected to the AFRC and where the alleged offence took place between 25 May 1997 and 13 February 1998. The relaxing of these procedural and evidential protections also applied to trials of AFRC “collaborators”. The rules did away with the need for juries to reach unanimous verdicts. A two thirds verdict was deemed to be the verdict of the whole jury.
287. An “AFRC collaborator” was generally understood to be someone who supported or sustained the junta in power. Accusations of “collaboration” often became a premise upon which human rights abuses were carried out.
288. The then Attorney general and Minister of Justice, Solomon Berewa, set out the policy of the Government towards collaborators in a letter entitled “Present Position relating to the Collaborators of the AFRC Junta” on 13, March 1998.
The use of language in this letter was dangerously ambiguous. It was open to wide interpretation and consequently led to abuses and violations on the ground. Mr. Berewa criminalized acts of “collaboration” with the AFRC and sought to have all persons falling into the category of “collaborators” detained in the custody of the state. This new category was not codified in law but it led to the detention of thousands of Sierra Leoneans.
916. A collaborator of the AFRC was generally understood to be someone who supported or sustained the junta in power. The notion of ‘collaboration’ was often applied subjectively and arbitrarily by those who used it. It spread fear and suspicion. ‘Collaboration’ often became a premise upon which violations and abuses were carried out.
917. On 13 March, just three days after the formal restoration of the Government of President Kabbah, the then Attorney general and Minister of Justice, Solomon Berewa, circulated a letter to Officers-in-Change at District level, bearing his signature and the official stamp of the Attorney General’s Office. It was entitled ‘Present Position relating to the Collaborators of the AFRC Junta’. The letter set out the policy of the Government towards collaborators in the following terms:
“Take note that all persons who have evidence that any individual collaborated with the AFRC Junta should report should report that information to the nearest Police Station or to any member of the ECOMOG Forces whose responsibility is to take appropriate action including arresting such individuals…
918. The use of language in this letter was ambiguous. It was open to misinterpretation by its recipients. The letter made no attempt to define who “the collaborators” actually were, whereas the phrase was highly prejudicial in legal terms.
919. The Attorney General’s (Solomon Berewa) instruction that the infliction of punishment on ‘such suspected collaborators’ should be left to “the law enforcement agencies” made no reference to the due process of law and presumed the guilt of persons in question. There was no requirement for interrogation of the ‘evidence’ that a member of the public might put forward before punishment could be inflicted.
920. There was also no clear definition of who “the law enforcement agencies” actually were. Members of the Civil Defence Forces could have construed themselves as fitting into both the category of “members of the public” and the category of “law enforcement agencies”, in which case they could mete out punishment. They could also have construed themselves as acting on the instructions of the Attorney-General (Solomon Berewa) since they were instructed, through their District Officers, to ‘comply with what is stated’ in his letter.
921. The letter was open to wide interpretation and consequently may have led to abuse on the ground. The Attorney-General (Solomon Berewa) appeared to have created a new category of criminal known as a ‘collaborator’ and sought to have all persons falling into that category detained in the custody of the state. This new category was not codified in law but it served to ‘criminalize’ thousands of Sierra Leoneans.
289. The Commission finds that the arrests, detentions, prosecutions and
trials that followed the establishment of this Government policy were politically motivated and culminated in numerous human rights violations and abuses. The Commission finds that the departure from recognized legal and constitutional standards was the result of deliberate planning and authorization by the Government of Sierra Leone. While the Government’s objective – to reassert its political ascendancy and send out a strong message that coup plotters would not be tolerated – was just, the means used were not. The Commission finds that the means employed were unconstitutional and resulted in human rights violations and abuses.
291. The Commission finds that the mob justice prevalent during the
transitional period between the ECOMOG intervention of 12, February 1998 and the restoration of President kabbah on 10, march 1998 was not sufficiently quelled or controlled. Many civilians were executed arbitrarily on allegations of so-called “collaboration” while many others were beaten up, harassed or molested on similar grounds. A clear message or other assertion of control by the Government or ECOMOG may have prevented such violations.
Conditions of Detention at Pademba Road Prison
930. Prison conditions were deplorable. Initially built to house a capacity of about three hundred inmates, the number in detention during this period was about three thousand by some estimates, like Donald Smith, five thousand) resulting in overcrowding of cells, and poor living conditions of detainees.
292. The Commission finds that conditions of detention at Pademba Road
prison in the period between February 1998 and 6, January 1999 were deplorable and in breach of multiple provisions of both the Sierra Leone Constitution and applicable human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These prison conditions have not changed at the time of writing this report and need the urgent attention of the Government.
293 The Commission received testimony of substantial allegations of
torture being practiced against inmates of Pademba Road prison, in flagrant breach of the Constitution, even under a regime of Emergency Powers. These testimonies came from multiple witnesses whose periods in detention were distinct and for separate reasons. They lead the Commission to find that the Government of Sierra Leone has systematically violated the Sierra Leone constitution and human rights instruments including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
291. At the very least, the Government has failed repeatedly to discharge
Its legal obligation to conduct rigorous investigations into all allegations of torture against agents of the State to ascertain the veracity of such allegations.
931. According to Hilton Fyle, who was one of those detained:
“Each of the sixty-eight cells on each block had been built to accommodate two people; but now six or seven people were crowding into each one. On the left hand corner was the bucket into which you would empty your bladder or our bowels at night… the ground was bare, and up on the wall there was a large air vent with thick iron bars. There was no chair, no bench, and no mattresses. Prisoners were not allowed to sing, to whistle, to have pen or paper, to read newspaper, t write or receive letters, or be in possession of any instrument with which to communicate (like plain paper or writing book).
932. A similar description was provided to the Commission in the testimony of Victor Foh:
“(The conditions were) abysmal, awful, hopeless, useless, degrading, wretched, oppressive, abhorrent and all such vices most inhumane. I and many others were selectively tortured. Pademba road prisons were designed for about four hundred inmates. The period following the restoration of the Kabba government in 1998 saw an unprecedented large number of children of all ages stuffed into very untidy cells at Pademba Road. Whilst I and many others were charged for treason, the bulk of our unfortunate compatriots were dying by the hour in the cells at Pademba Road prisons. Our human rights were grossly abused.”
933. Another inmate, Philip Sankoh, was particularly critical of the attention paid to the detainees’ health:
“The food was almost without sauce. I never saw a piece of fish or meat in any food during the first six months of imprisonment. No salt and just thin spread of oil at the top of the rice. The quantity was very small. Ration was once a day. They started preparing special diet for us after the treason trials commenced. During the six months I saw so many people die or fall ill because of the poor quality and quantity of food. We slept on the floor. One blanket on which to lie and the other to cover, no mattress, no pillow. We were eight in my cell.”
934. The conditions of detention at Pademba Road Prison in the period between February 1998 and 6th January 1999 were deplorable and in breach of multiple provisions of both the Sierra Leone Constitution and applicable human rights instruments including the ACHPR and the ICCPR. These conditions had existed right from the APC regime and had changed little during the intervening years.
937. The then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and current Vice president, Solomon Berewa, in responding to questions at the Commission’s public hearings, gave the following description of the steps he took to instigate the legal process:
“It was the absolute discretion of the Attorney General to decide who to prosecute and who not to… We set up mechanism for investigating those cases. It was necessary for an early action. I decided to concentrate on the cases of civilians in the first. I set up a large team of investigators. I relegated my powers to this committee. Because of the sensitivity of the matter I brought in all the groups that were very considerate – persons who were very objective in their assessment of facts (students, lecturers, members of the CCSL). Vast majority of them were not to be charged. We proffered those charges and look civilians to court.”
943. According to Victor Foh, first accused in the first treason court, by promulgation of this notice and the rule of evidence, ‘our human rights were grossly abused and those of us charged to court were robbed of our constitutional right of fair hearing. According to Abdulai Conteh, such fundamental change regarding the unanimity rule of the jury’s verdict, must be brought about by an Act of parliament and not ‘emergency regulations and their exigencies.’ Rules four, five and six of this notice unfairly prejudiced the trials of the accused persons by robbing them of their rights to fair hearing.
944. The Public Notice could not easily be reconciled with some important provisions of the constitution, which guarantee the fundamental human right to a fair hearing. Moreover, this Notice offended the provisions of the Constitution that grant the president power to make emergence regulations and rules.
292. Commission finds that the erstwhile Attorney General and Minister
of Justice, Solomon Berewa, played a particularly conspicuous role in the conduct of both the civilian and military trials of 1998. As Attorney General, Mr. Berewa exercised his discretionary power of prosecution in an arbitrary fashion. Furthermore, Mr. Berewa sat on the mercy Committee whose role it was to advise the President on the issuance of pardons for the 34 condemned soldiers. The Commission finds that Mr. Berewa held an inappropriate amount of power in deciding the fate of the persons he had himself selected for trial.
All well meaning Sierra Leoneans believe that Mr. Solomon Ekuma Berewa is not a fit and proper person to be President of Sierra Leone.
Because of Mr. Solomon Berewa’s human rights abuses, he (Solomon Berewa) should be tried for human rights abuses by the UN Special Court of Sierra Leone or the International Court of Justice for the sufferings and death of many Sierra Leoneans he perceived as his political opponents.
Find below, names of the 24(twenty-four) unfortunate Soldiers Mr. Solomon Ekuma Berewa, the SLPP Presidential candidate for the August 11, 2007 Presidential elections rushed them to their graves:-
1. SLA 18164384 Cpl. Tamba Gborie
2. SLA 18163273 Sgt. Alfred Abu Sankoh
3. SLA 200 Brig. Hassan Conteh
4. SLA 301 Col. James Max Kanga
5. SLA 207 Col. Abdul karim Sesay
6. SLA 448 Sgn. Ldr. Victor L. King
7. SLA 144 Col. Daniel Kobina Anderson
8. SLA 204 Col. Samuel F.Y. Koroma
9. SLA 405 Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Gilbert
10. SLA 223 Lt. Col. David Boisy Palmer
11. SLA 220 Col. John Amadu S. Conteh
12. SLA 339 Maj. Kula Samba
13. SLA 465 Maj. Augustine F. Koroma
14. SLA 495 Maj. Bayoh Conteh
15. SLA 462 Capt. Albert Jonny Moore
16. SLA 674 Capt. Abu Bakarr Kamara
17. SLA 501 Capt. Simbo Sankoh
18. SLA 439 Capt. Idrissa Keitta Khemolai
19. SLA 650 Lt. Jim Kelly Jalloh
20. SLA 434 Capt. Josiah Boisy Pratt
21. SLA 531 Lt. Marouff Sesay
22. SLA 272 Col. P.F. Fode
23. SLA 415 Lt. Cmdr. L.D. Howard
24. SLA 412 Lt. Cmdr. Abdul Aziz Dumbuya
May their souls rest in perfect peace
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, Solomon Ekuma Berewa, S.L.P.P. Presidential Candidate is guilty of gross Human Rights violations and accordingly falls among those who bear the greatest responsibility.
By: Victor Bockarie Foh