Statement by Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law on the just concluded trial of Rtd. Major Palo Conteh, et al.

Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL-SL)
145 Circular Roa,d Freetown, Sierra Leone
+232 76 365 449 or +232 76 672 841

Statement by Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law on the justconcluded trial of Rtd. Major Palo Conteh, et al.
3rd July, 2020.

Freetown, Sierra Leone: The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL)
welcomes the conclusion of the trial of Retired Major Palo Conteh and two others, and
particularly applauds the expeditious nature of the proceedings. In April, Rtd. Major
Conteh was arraigned on a 13-count indictment of conspiracy to commit treason or
replace the government of Sierra Leone through illegal means. He was also charged
with possessing a greater number of small arms than was specified in a license, and of
carrying a loaded gun in a public place, contrary to the Arms and Ammunition
Regulations 2014. Two others, Retired Colonel Saa Anthony and Prince George
Hughes, were charged with abetting and procuring of an offence and making a false
statement under oath, contrary to the Arms and Ammunition Regulations 2014 and
the Perjury Act of 1911, respectively.



The trial lasted for three months. On 1st July, 2020, a jury of seven men and five
women returned a verdict of “not guilty” in respect of all the treason-related charges
against Rtd. Major Conteh. He was, however, convicted on the two lesser charges and
sentenced to a term of twelve months imprisonment for each count. The sentences will
be served consecutively. Messrs Sinnah and Hughes were both acquitted and
discharged on all counts. Both parties have a right to appeal, and we sincerely hope
that any appeals filed will be disposed of expeditiously in order to bring closure to
these cases. We would further welcome a presidential pardon for Rtd. Major Palo
Conteh or his release on bail, pending the hearing and determination of his appeal.
CARL applauds all the parties for their individual and collective contributions to
ensuring a speedy conclusion of the trials. We were particularly impressed by the
professionalism, brilliance and collegial spirit demonstrated by both the prosecution
and defence teams: it is truly worthy of emulation. We are profoundly proud of the
bravery and commitment shown by the jurors. It was an enormous task, but we
appreciate their commitment to serve the people of Sierra Leone and, more important,
for doing justice by the three accused persons.

The trial reminds us of the crucial role of the jury in the fair and expeditious
dispensation of justice, and we truly hope that the lessons leant from this trial will be
used to make the jury trials more effective and efficient. We are fully aware of the
significant challenges that characterize jury trials in this country, including inordinate
delays caused by jury absenteeism; we believe that there are many opportunities for
reforms. Rather than abolish it, the leadership of the judiciary should work
Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL-SL)
145 Circular Roa,d Freetown, Sierra Leone
+232 76 365 449 or +232 76 672 841

cooperatively with the government and the Bar to make it more effective and
responsive to the justice needs of the people of Sierra Leone.
This trial further offers an opportunity to remind the Government of Sierra Leone, and
in particular the Ministry of Justice, of its critical role in ensuring justice for all.
Access to justice is an important right, which is why the Government must always
seek to protect the rights of all, regardless of a person’s political, economic or social

Accordingly, those with responsibility to investigate and prosecute must do so
with diligence and integrity. Treason is an extraordinarily serious offence, and we
expect State actors to assess the evidence thoroughly and objectively to be certain that
it meets the evidentiary threshold of sustaining the allegations. Over the last four
months, the family members of Rtd. Major Conteh in particular have endured serious
psychological and emotional distress. His wife was also arrested and detained for
several days as part of the investigation into his alleged treason. She was released
without charge, and unfortunately, without compensation or an apology.

We acknowledge and respect the role of the State to enforce the law and ensure
accountability for crimes. We also call on those charged with delivering justice on
behalf of the State to do so while bearing in mind that their decisions and actions
could undermine the administration of rule of law, public confidence in state
institutions, and the protection of human rights. We urge state officials to exercise the
powers conferred on them in good faith, fairly, reasonably, and for the purpose for
which they were conferred.

CARL will release a detailed report on the proceedings shortly.
For more information:
Contact Ibrahim Tommy Esq., Executive Director, Centre for Accountability and Rule
of Law by email at or or via phone at +232 76 365 499

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