The HRCSL Act No.9 of 2004 in section 7 (2)(f) requires the Commission to monitor and document human rights violations in Sierra Leone and section 9(1) gives the Commission powers to authorize persons whom they think are capable to act on their behalf, in order to access all government offices, facilities and places of detention including prisons, police cells, remand homes and probation facilities.
Speaking at the stakeholders meeting, HRCSL Commissioner Rashid Dumbuya said the Commission was not oblivious of the challenges faced by most Ministries, Departments and Agencies, but noted that with effective collaboration, can act and make sure that much can be achieved with little or no costs.
“It is my firm belief that we are all going to discuss the8 issues from a genuine perspective with the aim of improving on the current condition in detention facilities and upholding the dignity of Persons deprived of their liberty” Commissioner Rashid said.
He continued that the Commission was pleased to engage the various institutions on the findings of its monitoring carried out this year with the aim of mapping out strategies in addressing the findings.
A Presentation was also made on the Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre Trial Detention in Africa. This is referred to as the Luanda Guidelines which has been the basis of HRCSL’s assessment of Police cells.
The Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, police custody and pre trial detention in Africa is the standard used by HRCSL to assess the performance of the police cells.
Some of the findings for the Motema and the Sefadu Police Stations, the Waterloo Police station and the Correctional Center in Freetown were that, poor quality food was served for all stations visited. Late supply of food was served most times at 3pm to 4pm once daily.
Sometimes Police officers assist some of the sick suspects to get medical attention (this is so in all stations visited by HRCSL). Serious medical cases are referred to govt hospitals on the cost of relatives.
There were unhygienic conditions in the male cells in the Central, Kissy, Waterloo, Moyamba and the Tongo Police stations with some littered with filth and leaky roofs in one of the cells in Tongo field police station. There was poor toilet facilities in all stations visited with the exception of the Magburuka and the Eastern Police stations.
Over detention was observed at the Congo Cross, Magburuka, Tongo Field Police Stations respectively. Juveniles were found in with adult suspects in the same cells (in February and on April 25th 2017).
At the Adonkia police station two suspects Osman Kamara (14th April to 25th April) and Foday sesay (23rd March to 25th April 2017). Similar situations were found out at the Magburuka police station (February), Tongo field Police station (April), where three suspects were being held beyond the statutory time limit.
It was however noted that all the murder suspects that were met in the cells had been in pre trial detention beyond the statutory time limit. Also, there was only one death in custody reported at the Eastern Police station on the 3rd March 2017( it was alleged he dangled himself).
Poor ventilation was observed at the Adonkia, Eastern, Hastings, Magburuka, Tongo Field, Central Police Stations and the Matotoka police respectively. It was also noted that 95%of stations visited, suspects informed HRCSL that relatives or complainants provide water for them as safe and clean drinking water was not available.
However, at the Correctional centers, ventilation in the cells were observed to be generally good.
Beddings and blankets in the Female Correctional Center were provided. In the Male Correctional Center, it was observed that the mattresses were put on the floor with blankets provided.
In Moyamba, inmates slept on bare floor with only blankets as mattresses. This contravenes rule 21 of the Nelson Mandela Rules. The Nelson Mandela Rules (UN Minimum standards rules for the treatment of prisoners and the Sierra Leone correctional services Act were used in the assessment of the correctional centers.