MADIEU SESAY ESQ.
46 Regent Road, Freetown; +23276519641; [email protected]
Our Ref: ARK/MS/06-22
Mr. Ambrose Sovula
Inspector General of Police Sierra Leone Police Headquarters George Street
17th June 2022
AN OPEN LETTER ON THE ARREST AND UNLAWFUL DETENTION OF ALHAJI AMADU BAH (LAJ)
I am the retained Solicitor for popular music artist Alhaji Amadu Bah, also known as LAJ, and I write to formally draw your attention to grave constitutional violations regarding the arrest and unlawful detention of my client. It is my fervent belief that the gains that this country has reported in the international community regarding improvements in Sierra Leone with respect to the efficacy of the Rule of Law, due process and respect for Human Rights have been severely marred by certain members of the Sierra Leone Police who have consistently demonstrated no respect for law or judicial processes.
I was instructed by my client that on Sunday 12th June 2022, while on his vehicle with others heading towards the east end of Freetown, a group of police officers accosted and arrested him, then took him to an unknown location without communicating to him the nature of the offence(s) for which he was arrested as provided for under Section 23 of the 1991 Constitution. After several failed attempts on Tuesday 14th June 2022, my client’s brother and I had a slender opportunity to see him when he was brought to the CID headquarters for a statement to be obtained from him. I then observed a drastic change in his appearance – hair on his head had been completely and unconventionally shaved. When his brother enquired from him as to the reason for the change in his looks, my client in the presence of some police officers, informed us that he had been taken to the OSD headquarters (a place called Benghazi) where over 7 police officers grabbed him and forcefully cut off his hair without his permission.
My client further shared with us that since Sunday, he had been kept in solitary confinement under inhuman conditions and without knowledge of the offence for which he was arrested or an opportunity to contact his relatives as his personal mobile phone was forcefully taken from him. My client instructed me that during the period he was at Benghazi, (between the 12th and 14th June 2022) he was constantly tortured and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment by different police officers in blatant violation of his fundamental Human Rights. My client informed me that he was also deprived of food and was left to lie on the bare floor in an unsanitary location.
After statements had been obtained from him, the police assured us they were going to investigate and charge the matter to court the following day and my client will be immediately taken to Congo Cross Police Station. We later got to Congo Cross Police Station later that Tuesday evening and realized he was never taken there.
Since Tuesday 14th June till date, I have not been able to see my client or know his whereabouts. Efforts made by relatives of my client to all relevant authorities have equally proven futile. Even though the police had promised that my client will be charged and arraigned in court the following day (Wednesday 15th June 2022), they have failed to do so. Quite unfortunately and surprisingly, some friends and family members who were arrested on alleged related incidents, were charged, and presented in court that day.
I was informed by the father of my client that he has had cause to solicit the services of another lawyer (Mr. Alfred Kamanda) who contacted the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone on behalf of his client’s son to seek their intervention on the violation of his Human Rights consistent with the statutory mandate of the Commission. However, I was informed that all efforts made by the commission were met with rejection by the police who continued to hold my client in detention without granting him access to contact representatives and family members or disclosing his location.
On Thursday 16th June 2022, we started an engagement with the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice regarding this matter to seek his intervention through his office as the most senior legal officer in the country.
Sir, my client’s continued detention without access to his family members or his lawyer violates not just the international treaties that Sierra Leone has assented, but also his constitutional rights. Section 17(2) of the 1991 Constitution states thus:
Any person who—
- is arrested or detained shall be informed in writing or in a language that he understands at the time of his arrest, and in any event not later than twenty-four hours, of the facts and grounds for his arrest or detention;
- is arrested or detained shall be informed immediately at the time of his arrest of his right of access to a legal practitioner or any person of his choice, and shall be permitted at his own expense to instruct without delay a legal practitioner of his own choice and to communicate with him confidentially.
At this point, I along with members of my client’s family are gravely concerned that the police have not been able to make any official statement regarding the whereabouts of my client and his present condition particularly given the revelation of torture and inhuman treatment he has experienced as stated above. By virtue of the constitutional provisions cited above which guides and limits the scope of the authority of the Sierra Leone Police, I demand immediate access to my client and any attempt to deprive me or members of his family of their right to access him is illegal and constitutes abuse of office and procedural impropriety.
Let me emphasize that I do recognize the duty of the police in preserving law and order. However, Constitutionalism in Sierra Leone demands that the police in the exercise of their public duty must only do so in conformity with the law, presuming every citizen innocent until proven guilty in a competent court of law. The police have no such authority to deprive any citizen of their Human Rights simply because they are the subjects of a criminal investigation.
While I thank you for your prompt response, I hope you would, in your good office, intervene to avert this travesty of justice and embarrassment to this government which seeks to maintain its image in the international community as a model for rebuilding Human Rights and respect for the Rule of Law in a post-conflict nation.
Madieu Sesay Esq. Legal Practitioner
• Office of the Vice President and Chair of the Police Council
• The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice
• The Sierra Leone Bar Association
• Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone
• The Office of the Ombudsman, Sierra Leone
• The Resident Coordinator, United Nations in Sierra Leone
• Country Representative, United Nations Development Programme
• Head, European Union in Sierra Leone
• Ambassador, United States Embassy
• High Commissioner, British High Commissioner
• Members of the Press