Sierra Leone
16.10.15
Urgent Interventions

Continuing judicial harassment against members of the Malen Land Owners and Users Association (MALOA)

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URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

Newinformation
SLE 001 / 0315 / OBS
023.1

Judicialharassment / Arbitrary detention

SierraLeone

October16, 2015

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme ofthe International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in Sierra Leone.

Newinformation:

TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing judicialharassment against members of the Malen Land Owners and Users Association(MALOA). For the past three years, MALOA has been monitoring and denouncing thenegative human rights impact of the activities of Socfin Agricultural CompanySierra Leone Ltd (SAC) in Malen's district, in particular acts of land grabbing[1].

Accordingto the information received, the judicial harassment against members of MALOAcontinues. On October 8, 2015, a court hearing in the trial against Mr. ShiakaSama, MALOA Spokesperson and Messrs. Sima Mattia, James Blango,Lahai Sellu, Musa Sellu and Foday Musa on charges ofdestruction of growing plants belonging to SAC”, “destruction of growingplants”, “conspiracy” and “incitement”[2] for allegedly brushing palm oil plants belonging to SACtook place. It was was adjourned to October 15, 2015 as the defense counsel wasabsent.

OnSeptember 8, 2015, seven other MALOA members, Ms. Amie Faba, Messrs. IdrisaFatorma, Mohamed Kebbie, Abu Kebbie, Morie Margai, LuseniTommy and Momoh Karimu, were arrested on charges of “writing downnames of people in the town without the knowledge of the chiefs”. Ms. Amie Fabawas responsible for the registration of MALOA members in the village, when shewas summoned before the town Chief, who asked her to hand in the list of names.When she refused to do so, Ms. Amie Faba and six other MALOA members were thenarrested. Despite the fact that bail in Sierra Leone is free, the detaineeswere asked to pay 100,000 Leones (approximately 20 Euros) each, before they canbe allowed bail. The seven MALOA members were released pending trial onSeptember 10, 2015, after paying a total of 350,000 Leones.

Severalother MALOA members are also facing judicial harassment in a third criminal cases(see background information).

TheObservatory fears that the arrest of the seven MALOA members only aimed atsanctioning their peaceful human rights activities. Therefore, the Observatorycalls upon the authorities of Sierra Leone to put an end to all acts ofharassment against them as well as against all human rights defenders in SierraLeone.

Backgroundinformation:

OnOctober 16, 2013, six members of MALOA, including its spokesperson, Mr. ShiakaSama, MALOA Spokesperson and Messrs. Sima Mattia, James Blango,Lahai Sellu, Musa Sellu and Foday Musa were arrested oncharges of destruction of growing plants belonging to SAC”, “destruction ofgrowing plants”, “conspiracy” and “incitement”[3] for allegedly brushing palm oil plants belonging to SAC anddetained until October 24, 2013. Though the six denied all allegations anddespite the absence of evidence, in July 12, 2014, the case was referred to theHigh Court. The six were then again detained overnight and released on a400,000 Leones (approximately 80 Euros) bail. On October 30, 2014, the trialbefore the High Court began and has been ongoing since then.

SeveralMALOA members also face judicial harassment in another criminal case. SylvesterKebbie and James Blango, together with nine MALOA supporters[4],were arrested between January 28 and February 26, 2014, on charges of“conspiracy, malicious damage”, “riotous conduct”, “destroying growing plants”,“stoning” and “carrying offensive weapons”. Some of the activists spent morethan 30 days in detention before being taken to court. This followed an allegedshooting incident at the Bamba village in Malen's district on January 14, 2015,involving two SAC personnel. Sylvester Kebbie and James Blango deny having beenpresent on the scene. On March 24, 2015, the two were refused bail by theMagistrates Court for the fourth time. It should be noted that the group doesnot have proper legal representation as the lawyers who represent them in courthave been doing so on a voluntary and occasional basis. During this lasthearing, lawyers of the defendants walk out of the court room to protestagainst the unfair treatment of their clients. On October 6, 2015, the elevenMALOA members appeared again before the Magistrates Court. The court dismissedthree of the six charges against them, namely the charges of “conspiracy,malicious damage”, “riotous conduct” and “stoning”. The sitting was adjournedto October 27, 2015.

Actionsrequested:

Pleasewrite to the authorities of Sierra Leone and ask them to:

i.Immediately drop all charges against Ms. Amie Faba , Messrs. Idrisa Fatorma,Mohamed Kebbie, Abu Kebbie, Morie Margai, Luseni Tommy and Momoh Karimu, ShiakaSama, Sima Mattia, James Blango, Lahai Sellu, Musa Sellu, Foday Musa andSylvester Kebbie, and put an end to all forms of judicial harassment againstthem and other MALOA members.

ii.Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms.Amie Faba , Messrs. Idrisa Fatorma, Mohamed Kebbie, Abu Kebbie, Morie Margai,Luseni Tommy and Momoh Karimu, Shiaka Sama, Sima Mattia, James Blango, LahaiSellu, Musa Sellu, Foday Musa and Sylvester Kebbie, as well as of all humanrights defenders in Sierra Leone;

iii.Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level -against MALOA members as well as against all human rights defenders in SierraLeone;

iv.Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on HumanRights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations GeneralAssembly, in particular:

-article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or inassociation with others, to promote the protection and realization of humanrights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

-and article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessarymeasures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone,individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats,retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any otherarbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of therights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v.Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedomsin accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by SierraLeone.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, State House, State Avenue, Tower Hill, Freetown, Sierra Leone, jkawusu-konte@statehouse.gov.sl, jaramenajara@yahoo.com
  • Mr. Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana, Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone
  • Mr. Franklyn B. Kargbo, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice
  • Mrs. Francess P. Alghali, Secretariat of Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, NEC Building, OAU Drive, Tower Hill, Freetown
  • Her Excellency Ms. Yvette Stevens, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva Chemin Louis-Dunant 15B (3rd Floor), 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 730 17 40, email: mission@sierraleonegeneva.ch
  • H.E. Dr Christian S. KARGBO, Ambassador of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the Kingdom of Belgium and Head of Mission to the European Union, Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone avenue de Tervueren 4101150 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: 02/771.11.80, email: sierraleoneembassy@brutele.be

Pleasealso write to diplomatic representations of Sierra Leone in your respectivecountries.

***

Paris-Geneva,October 16, 2015

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

TheObservatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of humanrights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

Tocontact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Email:Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Teland fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80

Teland fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

[1] In March 2011, Socfin Agricultural Company(SL) Ltd (SAC), subsidiary of Belgian-based Socfin group, leased more than6,000 Ha of palm oil plantation in the district of Malen for a minimum of 50years.

[2] Only MALOA's spokesperson Shiaka Sama isfacing incitement charges.

[3] Only MALOA's spokesperson Shiaka Sama is facingincitement charges.

[4] The nine are Messrs. Ibrahim Sengeh, SumailaMurana, Ishmael Bockarie, Abu Moiwo, Sao Rogers, VandySumaila, Foday Setua, Foday Mansaray and Mustapha Sengeh.

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