Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
In contrast to 2019, there were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
The Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB) is the body responsible for investigating police misconduct. The IPCB is an independent civilian oversight mechanism with a mandate within the security sector to receive and investigate complaints from the public and advise the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police.
On April 29, a riot broke out at Pademba Road Correctional Center in Freetown leading to 31 fatalities, including one corrections officer and 30 inmates. Thirty-two corrections officers and 21 inmates sustained injuries. After prisoners reportedly set fire to walls in storerooms and took hostages, security officials used live ammunition. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Prison Watch indicated the inmates were protesting the perceived preferential treatment of high-profile detainees, while Amnesty International reported it reflected health concerns after the first COVID cases in the Prison were reported the previous day. In July, Sierra Leone Correctional Services (SLCS) authorities reported the riot was sparked by overcrowding, an announcement that court sessions would be suspended for one month, COVID-19 health restrictions, and reports of a COVID-19 case at the prison.
The IPCB opened an investigation into the July alleged killing by security officers of six individuals in Makeni. The victims were participating in a protest against the government’s relocation of a power generator and transformers from Makeni to Port Loko District to support the airport’s operations. Residents reportedly burned tires on the streets and threw rocks during the protest. Authorities used tear gas and live ammunition in response.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. NGOs reported, however, that security forces used excessive force to manage civil protests in Freetown and provincial town (see section 1.a.).
Impunity remained a significant problem in the security forces, notably in the Sierra Leone Police (SLP). Observers noted police lacked training on crowd control and on human rights topics.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
c. Freedom of Religion
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. During the year there were fewer reports of government corruption compared with 2019.
Corruption: During 2019 the Anticorruption Commission (ACC) indicted and charged more than 33 persons, convicted 16 individuals, and recovered more than 17.8 billion leones ($1.97 million) from corrupt government officials. On March 4, the High Court convicted Alfred Kallon, former Human Resource Officer at the Office of Administrator and Registrar General, on 34 counts of corruption offenses. Kallon was accused of using his office improperly to facilitate the issuance of official service passports for unauthorized individuals. Justice Miata Samba ruled that Kallon pay a substantial monetary fine of or serve three years in prison.
In 2019 a survey by Transparency International found that 52 percent of the residents of the country had paid a bribe for public services, with the highest rate of bribery for health services. In Transparency International’s previous 2015 survey, 41 percent reported paying bribes.
In May 2019 the judiciary assigned five high court justices to a new Anti-Corruption Court to deal with corruption cases brought by the ACC. During the year, these judges separately presided over anticorruption cases. In October 2019 parliament passed a law that increased penalties for corruption and provided the ACC with alternative powers to prosecution, including out-of-court settlements to recoup stolen monies. The law also strengthened protection for witnesses and whistleblowers in cases of corruption. During the year, Anti-Corruption Commissioner Kaifala stated that the provisions of the law had assisted in several continuing corruption investigations.
In April the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law published a perception survey indicating the SLP, Parliament, and Ministry of Health and Sanitation were the most corrupt institutions in the country.
Some police and guards exacted bribes at checkpoints, falsely charged motorists with violations, impounded vehicles to extort money, and accepted bribes from suspects to drop charges or to arrest their rivals and charge them with crimes. In exchange for kickbacks, police reportedly arrested persons for civil disputes, such as alleged breach of contract or failure to satisfy a debt.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officers, their spouses, and their children to declare their assets and liabilities within three months of assuming office, and according to the ACC, officials largely complied. The law further requires public officials to declare their assets no later than three months after the end of their employment.
The law also mandates disclosure of assets by government ministers and members of parliament. The ACC is empowered to verify asset disclosures and may publish in media the names of those who refuse to disclose and petition courts to compel disclosure. The particulars of individual declarations were not available to the public without a court order.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restrictions, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to the views of local and international NGOs and generally acknowledged the problems presented. The government, including security forces, generally responded to human rights concerns raised by the HRCSL but was at times slow to support the HRCSL or implement its recommendations.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Parliamentary Human Rights Committee operated without government or party interference. It focused on keeping human rights matters on the parliamentary agenda, paving the way for the passage of amended laws such as the repeal during the year of the 1965 Public Order Act criminalizing libel and sedition and the ratification of international conventions, as well as doing public outreach. Separately, the HRCSL, modeled in accord with the UN Paris Principles, monitored and investigated human rights abuses.