The human rights watchdog report focuses on how Sierra Leone has impermissibly restricted the right to peaceful protest and assembly particularly by opposition parties over the past 10 years.
The report notes that 39 people were on trial for taking part in protests in 2016 and 2017.
A press release issued together with the report accused the previous All People’s Congress-led government to have used the police to crackdown on peaceful protesters in the country.
“Over the past ten years, police have frequently used excessive force to disperse spontaneous protests, with at least nine protesters killed and more than eighty injured. Amnesty International report also found that more than eighty protesters had their properties looted or were arbitrarily arrested,” the report stated.
The rights group in its report added that no police officer has been criminally responsible for any of the cases they documented, although recommendations had been made by the two commissions of inquiry and the Independent Police Complaints Board, adding that instead officers allegedly involved had been transferred to different departments.
The report adds that “in one case Amnesty International found that the police officer suspended for giving command to shoot had been promoted.” It mentioned another case wherein a police officer suspected of being responsible, avoided disciplinary action despite being recommended for dismissal in a 2009 Commission of Inquiry report.”
The report called on the authorities to ensure they promote the right of individuals to “peacefully assemble without fear for their safety, thus tasking the new government to implement reforms that would help the police manage demonstrations ‘effectively and safely’ to restore public trust in the security forces.
Meanwhile, to compile the report, Amnesty International says it conducted field research in Freetown, Kono, Kabala, and Bo and interviewed 105 people including government officials and police across the country.
Among many incidents, the report says “in August 2016, two schoolboys were shot dead and four young men injured when police opened fire on a protest against the removal of a planned youth village.
The group also called on the new government to overhaul a “repressive legal framework” that is out of step with the country’s obligations under international human rights law, thus reminding the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party that it was a victim of repressive laws and policing while in opposition and now has a chance to effect change whilst in government.