The report adds that restrictions imposed by the police on the use of private and commercial vehicles in the district capitals on both election days (with the exception of authorized, accredited vehicles) were controversial, poorly communicated and had a negative effect on relations between the key opposition parties and the police. Besides the unclear justification, and for many interlocutors, legally questionable authority of the police to issue such a measure, many CSOs criticized it as being in breach of fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution and international principles.
Although in practice the police facilitated the movement of cars transporting elderly, the measures caused inconvenience to many and reduced the inclusive nature of the elections. The legality and the necessity of the restrictions were debated and unsuccessfully challenged in court, and some political parties argued that it may have prevented instances of violence, the report stated.
According to the 2018 report on Sierra Leone, a number of arrests were reported to the EU EOM during the campaign, election days and post-elections period across the country, which disproportionately affected the opposition parties, with some of the arrested persons detained in police stations.
The report added that on 13 and 14 March, five NEC employees, including the District Election Officer in Falaba, were arrested for alleged electoral malpractices and detained until 20 March (well over the 72 hours maximum detention time allowed).
It went on to mention that an attempt by the police to enter the premises used by the SLPP presidential candidate during the final hours of voting on 7 March raised grave concerns of intimidation, and politicization of the police force and its actions.
However, the report noted also that the security forces were themselves not invulnerable to attacks. It mentioned that in one case a police officer was assaulted by party supporters, for which 54 people were charged and fined for the incident on 26 January on the occasion of the nomination of the APC candidates.