All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ - Edmund Burke

Sept 4, 2008

S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 6 No 8

The Truth Shall Set You Free----------The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth---------Exposing human rights abusers

Part of the Amnesty International Report relating to the human rights situation under junta rule. The arbitrary arrest and torture as well as execution of persons thought to be linked with the ousted civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is well documented by AI and other rights groups. The contents of the Expo Times publication was a well thought-out plan to eliminate Victor Sylver by linking him to the ousted government and party.

Index Number: AFR 51/005/1997
Date Published: 20 October 1997
Categories: Sierra Leone, Africa, West Africa
Document - Sierra Leone: A disastrous set-back for human rights

Arrest and detention of political opponents

Since the military coup on 25 May 1997 many of those associated with the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah or suspected of opposition to the AFRC have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Those targeted have included members of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government, those closely associated with it or the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), journalists, students and human rights activists. However, with the complete collapse of the rule of law, all Sierra Leonean civilians are at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention.

While many of those arrested have been imprisoned at Pademba Road prison, others have been held at Cockerill military headquarters, at headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and at police stations in Freetown. It is unclear exactly how many people have been arrested and detained since 25 May 1997. While some of those arrested have been released after a short time, others remained held without charge or trial for days, weeks or months. It has been difficult to assess with any accuracy the number of those detained because of continuous arrests and releases and lack of access to places of detention. Those detained at Pademba Road prison have been allowed visits by members of their families and also by representatives of a local non-governmental organization, Prison Watch. Further visits by Prison Watch were reported, however, to have been refused by the prison authorities in October 1997. The number of those arbitrarily arrested and detained is likely to be several hundred.

Most of those held at Pademba Road prison since 25 May 1997 have been held in administrative detention without charge or trial. They are categorized as being held in "military safe custody". There appears to be no legal basis for the detention of those in this category; they are in effect being arbitrarily detained on the apparent orders of the military. No substantive investigations into the grounds for detention have taken place and there is no opportunity for a review of these cases by a court. While at the end of July 1997 more than 70 detainees were held in administrative detention at Pademba Road prison, this number had doubled by the end of September 1997. Arbitrary arrests were reported to occur daily and to be continuing.

People associated with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government -

(In 2001 this was part of what Gibril wrote in the online Expo Times when Victor Sylver revealed Ibrahim Seaga Shaw's past during junta rule)

In the days immediately following the coup, several members of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government and senior military officers were reported to have been detained briefly at Cockerill military headquarters. All prominent politicians and military officers were ordered to report to military headquarters. No reasons were given for the arrests of former politicians and it appeared that they were held only because of their membership of the government.

Others closely associated with the government or the SLPP remained at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention. At least 15 people - eight senior military officers and seven civilians, including prominent SLPP members - were arrested on 16 June 1977, accused of conspiring to overthrow the AFRC. Others were reported to have been arrested in the following days. They included Dr Sama S. Banya, a prominent political figure, medical doctor and environmentalist, Colonel K.E.S. Boyah, Dauda Bundeh, Colonel Tom Carew, Major Francis Gottor, Lieutenant-Colonel John Ade Oluwole Jah-Tucker, Dr B.M. Kobba, a medical doctor, Abu Aiah Koroma, former Minister for Parliamentary and Political Affairs, Colonel R.Y. Koroma, Ansu Morseray, a student at Njala University College, Captain John Massaquoi, Vandy Morseray, a student at the Institute of Public Administration and Management, Captain Daniel Musa, Abdullai Mustapha, Brima Senesie and Major Vandi Turay.

Those arrested were first held at military headquarters before being transferred to Pademba Road prison. Although initially denied visits from families, doctors and lawyers, they were later permitted visits and their families were allowed to provide basic necessities such as mattresses and blankets. There was concern about the health of several of those detained.

The AFRC said that they would be brought to trial before a military court. Although accused of conspiring against the government, it appeared that most, if not all, of those arrested had been detained only because of their opposition to the military coup which brought the AFRC to power and their lack of cooperation with the AFRC. None of those detained was charged with any offence. Most of those arrested were released during the following weeks; several military officers were reported to have been released on 6 July 1997 and the two students were released after five weeks. However, Dr Sama S. Banya, Dauda Bundeh, Dr Abdul Jalloh, Dr B.M. Kobba, Abdullai Mustapha and Brima Senesie were not released until 29 July 1997. They remained under house arrest, however, until 7 October 1997.

Many other people were subsequently arbitrarily arrested because of their perceived support for the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and opposition to the AFRC. They included Raymond Dorwie, a chief security officer at the Port Authority in Freetown. He was arrested around 10 July 1997 and imprisoned at Pademba Road prison until early October 1997. Juliet Hagan, a teacher, Christopher Sawyer, a student, Momodu Bah, a trader, and two other people were arrested on 6 August 1997. Joan Tucker, a teacher at the YWCA in Freetown, was reported to have been arrested on 11 August 1997. They were all held without charge at Pademba Road prison until 16 August 1997.

A radio station began broadcasting in July 1997, transmitting messages from President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and providing information about the activities of his government in Conakry, Guinea. Soldiers and members of the RUF subsequently carried out arrests, accusing people of either knowing from where the broadcasts were being transmitted or of passing information to the radio station. The AFRC believed that the broadcasts were being transmitted from the international airport at Lungi, under the control of Nigerian troops since the military coup on 25 May 1997. Many people, including those travelling from Lungi to Freetown, who were suspected of involvement with the radio station were physically assaulted and arrested by soldiers and members of the RUF.

In early September 1997, Mr Goba, described as a personal assistant to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was arrested and taken to Cockerill military headquarters. According to reports, he was not held in any building but in a freight container within the confines of the military headquarters. His physical condition was seriously deteriorating as a result of his conditions of detention. He was still held by mid-October 1997. Others were also reported to be held with him in the freight container.

On 3 October 1997 a lecturer from Fourah Bay College was reported to have been arrested, apparently because he was believed to have been associated with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. He was badly beaten and was subsequently admitted to hospital. Mohamed B. Sesay, Deputy Minister for Marine Resources in the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was reported to have been arrested around 8 October 1997, apparently accused of involvement in subversive activities. He was held at CID headquarters in Freetown. Among others arrested in early October 1997 on similar accusations were a Temne traditional leader and members of his family.

In addition to those suspected of direct association with the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, others perceived as supporting the kamajors, loyal to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, have also been arrested. On 16 September 1997 soldiers and RUF forces were reported to have attacked the town of Bonthe, on Sherbro Island, in Southern Province. The AFRC had accused the kamajors of establishing bases and military training centres at Bonthe. Many civilians fled Bonthe, where property was destroyed and looted, for Freetown. More than 60 others were arrested and taken to the town on Moyamba for questioning, apparently suspected of sympathizing with the kamajors. It was not clear how long they remained in detention or whether some might have been subsequently transferred to Freetown.


Shortly after the military coup on 25 May 1997, the AFRC expressed its intention to ensure that press freedom was unrestricted. It criticized legislation passed earlier in May 1997 which required the registration of newspapers and newspaper editors to have academic qualifications and lengthy previous professional experience. However, this commitment was short-lived.

As with other critics of the military coup and the AFRC, journalists soon became the targets for threats, ill-treatment, arrest and detention. On 3 July 1997 the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) issued a statement saying that it was committed to the restoration of democratic and constitutional rule and the speedy restoration of the elected government of Sierra Leone. The same month SLAJ condemned the AFRC for its unprecedented harassment and intimidation of journalists. In September 1997 the AFRC announced that newspapers were required to obtain permission before publishing. It also ordered all newspapers to register officially within six days or cease publication, citing the Newspapers Act of 1980. It subsequently allowed those newspapers which had legally registered before 25 May 1997 to continue to publish until the end of the year.

During the week of 9 June 1997, some two weeks after the military coup, Ojukutu Macaulay, editor of The Quill newspaper and also the host of a live radio broadcast, "Good morning, Freetown", was reported to have gone into hiding after being confronted by a group of soldiers. According to reports, a few hours earlier he had had a conversation with another journalist during which he apparently stated that he did not and would not support the military coup. As he returned home, a group of soldiers confronted him and threatened to kill him if he continued to denounce the military coup. Also in early June 1997 journalists working for For di People newspaper were threatened following articles critical of the AFRC. A correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Sylvester Rogers, based in Makeni, Northern Province, was also reported to have gone into hiding in June 1997 after soldiers sought to locate him after he filed reports critical of the AFRC. Several months later, in early October 1997, he was reported to have been arrested and severely beaten and his passport seized.

In the weeks which followed, an increasing number of journalists were arrested and detained, apparently only because of undertaking their professional activities and legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression. Four newspapers critical of the AFRC closed down after receiving threats.

On 8 July 1997 four members of staff of The Democrat newspaper and three other people who were at The Democrat's premises were arrested by soldiers searching for the clandestine radio transmitter broadcasting on behalf of the government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. They were taken to Cockerill military headquarters. Although four were released after four days, Jeff Bowley Williams, Salomon Conteh and Fatmata Kamara were subsequently transferred to Pademba Road prison and held without charge until 19 July 1997. Other journalists reported to have been arrested and detained briefly without charge in July 1997 because of their reporting of events included Hilton Fyle, an independent radio broadcaster, Bundu Hayes, editor of The Point newspaper, and Martins I. Martins, a journalist working for Business News newspaper.

Four members of staff of the newspaper Unity Now were arrested on 26 July 1997 by soldiers following an article critical of the AFRC. According to reports, Dominic Lamine, deputy editor, Sahr Mbayoh, news editor, and two women employees were arrested on 26 July 1997. They were held at Cockerill military headquarters where they were denied all visits. The two women and Sahr Mbayoh were released on 30 July 1997 and Dominic Lamine three days later. The newspaper's editor, Frank Kposowa, also president of SLAJ, went into hiding for a brief period.

Two days later, on 28 July 1997, Suliman Janger, production manager of the newspaper The New Tablet, was reported to have been arrested and held briefly, again following an article critical of the AFRC. Five newspaper vendors selling The New Tablet were also reported to have been arrested on 28 July 1997; two were held in Pademba Road prison.

Two journalists and their driver who were on their way to report a demonstration by students protesting against the AFRC on 18 August 1997 were arrested and taken to Cockerill military headquarters. Kelvin Lewis, described as a correspondent for both Radio France Internationale and Voice of America, and Ojukutu Macaulay, previously arrested in June 1997, were reported to have been severely beaten with the blunt ends of machetes and butts of guns by soldiers, who also were reported to have threatened to kill them. Ojukutu Macaulay sustained injuries to his head which required stitches. Both journalists and their driver were released the following day.

On 10 October a freelance journalist, Abdul Salam Timbo, was reported to have been arrested on accusations of involvement in subversive activities. David Tam Baryoh, editor of Punch newspaper, was arrested the same day and held at CID headquarters for 72 hours. He was accused of providing information to President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and Sierra Leone's ambassadors to the UN and the United States. The following day, John Foray, acting editor of The Democrat newspaper, and Abdul Kposowa, a freelance journalist, were arrested by soldiers and taken to Pademba Road prison. They were beaten at the time of their arrest.

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