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



Vol XI No 9

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Sunday August 9, 2015 - The longest court martial in Sierra Leone's history finally ends. All thirteen accused set free as prosecution fails, miserably, to buttress charges. Accusations that it was just another act by the smoke and mirrors rat of a President at State House.Judge Advocate Otto During. Found no grounds for conviction.The 13 freed soldiers. What happens next?

...and finally the truth is out. All thirteen soldiers arrested and held for more than two years have been declared free by a Court Martial sitting in the capital Freetown. This is a part of the story as reported when the saga started -

"A Sierra Leone military court has charged a captain and 13 soldiers with mutiny and denied them bail, a judge said. The charge was coming eight months after they were arrested for planning a protest against the president. The men, who all pleaded not guilty, were arrested last August in the northern town of Makeni for planning a protest during a visit by President Ernest Bai Koroma to his hometown.

The Judge, Otto During, said the soldiers had intended to kidnap the president and murder the defence minister during the visit, which was later cancelled. He said the account has not been independently verified and details of the event leading to the soldiers’ arrests were not addressed in court on Monday. He added that “bail was refused the suspects in the interest of public safety and the safety of the accused persons themselves. “Also, there is the risk of flight on the part of the suspects.” If found guilty, the men could face a range of punishments from demotion in rank to death by firing squad."

This, in a nutshell shows just how serious the entire matter was with the accused soldiers as confused as the public had been over the whole incident. This was the classical APC tactics repeated so many times during the Stevens and Momoh regimes that Sierra Leoneans old enough to read between the lines were watching with keen interest as to what will eventually emerge out of the so-called court martial that had seen serving soldiers deprived of their freedom and way of life, subjected to all manner of intimidation and deprivation as the rogue government tried to deflect public attention from its dismal and human rights-abusing practices. A lack of respect for the constitution also thrown in for good measure.

Indeed there was a time when watchers were waiting for the "Executive President" to order the Court Martial to find all of the men guilty and sentenced to death but the eyes of the international community and concerned Sierra Leoneans including the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission were focused on every move.

The Sierra Leone Concord Times newspaper put it succinctly in a headline - "Bogus mutiny claims" with the opening line - "Freed at last...after spending almost two years in detention. Here's a section of the newspaper's account.

"They were arrested in August 2013, incarcerated at the Pademba Road Male Correctional Centre for over 8 months without being charged to court. They were subsequently charged with 8 counts, ranging from conspiracy to commit mutiny, mutiny and failure to suppress mutiny. However, Yesterday (5 August), 13 of the alleged mutineers finally breathed an air of freedom after they were cleared on all the charges. Addressing the court yesterday, Judge Advocate Otto During noted that in a criminal matter of such magnitude, the prosecution must prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt. “This is fundamental principle in the practice of law,” he said.

On count one, which is conspiracy to commit mutiny, he said: “Conspiracy is difficult to prove because it is done secretly. It also needs a corroborative evidence for it to be proven. The conspirators should have specific intention and the law requires that they should execute the act.” He noted that that all the information about a secret meeting at the Saint Andrews Primary School at Teko Barracks was mere rumour. Judge Advocate During continued that all the accused persons, with the exception of the 14th raised alibis and that investigators failed to cross check them, hence they stand. He said there was corroborative evidence that there was no breakage at the arms store in Teko Barracks in Makeni.

On count 2, which is mutiny, the judge advocate said there was no evidence in court that all the accused persons engaged in any activities that amounted to mutiny. He said mutiny involves two or more persons subjected to law, engage in some violent activities and that it must be done openly. He emphasised there was no evidence of mutiny in court and that there was no violent activities in which the accused, either with or without the use arms, subdued their commanders and put them under arrest.

He noted that counts 3 to 6, which relates to failure to suppress mutiny, was not duplicitous and that they require knowledge of the accused persons to do so. He dismissed counts 7 and 8 which is incitement to mutiny, noting that they are bad in law as one cannot incite somebody to commit mutiny alone. Reading the verdict in court, President of the Court Martial Board, Lieutenant Colonel Bobley Jusu cleared the 13 accused persons on all the charges, while the Judge Advocate acquitted and discharged them.Rtd Brigadier Maada Bio. He would have been a prize catch.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy last night congratulated the court for administering justice to the 14 military personnel [one of the soldiers was acquitted and discharged after the preliminary investigation]. CARL championed the campaign to urge the government to release the men or bring them to court, after they were initially held for eight months without trial and incommunicado.

Tommy told Concord Times that: “It is victory for justice, and should serve as a critical step forward in bringing closure to the sad chapter in the lives of those men. We will continue to condemn and seek compensation for the human rights violations that they suffered in the course of the process, particularly for illegally detaining them for eight months without arraigning them.”

The Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission had also been watching the drama unfold. It intervened and requested the release of other soldiers who had been arrested but not charged - and were still held at the Pademba Road prison. The AWOKO news outlet had this headline - "Four Soldiers freed from Mutiny detention" adding -

As part of its strategic engagement with stakeholders, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone on Thursday April 24 facilitated the release of the remaining four detained soldiers held at Pademba road prison.

The facilitation came about after the Commission engaged the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo on various human rights issues ranging from prison overcrowding, health of prisoners, and the remaining four soldiers not charged before the court martial. The Commission believed that continued detention of the four soldiers without trial was a violation of their rights and therefore sought their release, if they were not going to be charged.

The Attorney-General who said he was unaware that the four were not charged, sought clarification from the Chief of Defence Staff and to make necessary steps for their release if they were not going to be charged. Preparations were underway between the AG’s office and the Defence Ministry to release the soldiers from custody.

On November 15th, 2013, the Human Rights Commission visited the Pademba Road Prison to do a check list inventory of the actual situation that obtained there. The Commission noted that 18 military officers were being held at the prison without charges brought against them for allegedly committing an offence. The military officers were detained by the state since August 2013, without trial.

This action by the government clearly violates section 23. (1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone Which states that “Whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he shall unless the charge is withdrawn, be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent Court’. The Commission strongly believes that this provision of the 1991 Constitution was never adhered to. The Commission wrote a letter to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on February 6th 2014 highlighting the continued detention of the 18 soldiers without trial since August, 2013. It was also stated in that letter that the Commission observed that the military officers were denied visits and also they cannot access their bank accounts."The rat's army chief. He threatened to raze Freetown in 1997...and the junta did in 1998/99.

It should be recalled that throughout the deprivation visited upon the soldiers, the Court Martial never mentioned the word "treason" and it is not lost on many who know the tactics of the APC to eliminate political opponents that they tried to but were unsuccessful in getting false witnesses to link the soldiers with opposition MPs and other civilians they considered a thorn in their side.

Their chief target would have been Rtd Brigadier Maada Bio, John Benjamin of the SLPP and others they had long wanted to charge with treason ever since that attack on the SLPP headquarters in Freetown when at a meeting of the APC inner circle one of them cried out - "This is not the APC I know. These people should be charged with attempts to overthrow the government..." The then Information minister I B Kargbo was among those at the meeting. The first move was to charge 22 SLPP victims to court. Oh yes - the victims were charged. This did not work and the matter was thrown out as many in the capital knew what had happened and were waiting for the courts to twist things in favour of the APC.

We had in earlier postings about the APC tactics of manipulating the Judiciary to meet its political ends - one of them implicating a sitting Vice President, one Francis Mischeck Minah who was eventually hanged together with the man who implicated him - one Gabriel Mohamed Tennyson Kaikai, head of the New England police post at the time after he was demoted and sent to that island post by then Inspector-General of Police, one James Bambay Kamara.

In this case, try as they might - they were unable to stick any mud on the soldiers nor indeed on any political adversary. Kindly read this account as reported from the lips of the wife of one of the accused as found on the pages of Concord Times.

"Witness Memunatu Mansaray, spouse of the 8th accused, led in evidence by counsel Ishmael Philip Mammy, told the court that she had stayed with her husband at the Teko Barracks in Makeni for over four years, and recalled that on 16th August, 2013 her husband, dressed in full military uniform, left home to go to the brigade headquarters after a fire alarm was raised. She testified that the accused would always be at home with the family when not on duty, as well as assist her with domestic chores, adding that the accused had never left home without her consent or sneaked out at night.

“He never slept out when not on duty and he never sneaked out at night without my knowledge because I always lie in front and whenever he wanted to go outside to attend to nature, I would know and accompany him,” she told the court. “I am charged with the responsibility to lock the door and there had never been a situation where I had forgotten to do so at night.”

She also recalled the month of July 2013 when they both travelled to Mattru Jong while her husband was on annual leave and returned to Makeni on the expiration of the leave. The witness admitted knowing Saint Andrews School in Makeni, but noted she had no knowledge that her husband attended secret meetings at the school to take up arms against military superiors and the government of Sierra Leone. She further noted that she was unaware her husband attended secret meetings anywhere and had never seen him incite any of his co-accused.

She confirmed the conflict that had existed between the 1st accused, Private Momoh Kargbo, and her husband, but could not remember details of the conflict. She further admitted knowledge of a charcoal transaction between the 12th prosecution witness, Memunatu Taqi Kamara, and the 8th accused, adding that Memunatu intimated her about the outcome of the transaction and threatened to do all she could to ensure the accused was dismissed from the military. While being cross-examined by State Prosecutor Vincent Sowa, the witness noted that her husband so much loved his job that he had never been absent without official leave (AWOL), locked up in a guardroom or charged for not performing his military duties.

That's a woman in defence of her man whose life was on the line saying it as plainly as she could, never mind the overtures made to her and others to implicate them in a so-called secret meeting in Makeni!!!

In the past, this was the classic APC tactics and if they discovered that the accuser knew too much and likely to spill the beans after the execution of those they wanted murdered using the judicial process, would also include the witnesses on death row. Dead men, they say tell no tales.

We now await developments on the remedial action including compensation for the victims of this state-sponsored outrage. We salute the defence team of the soldiers who refused to be intimidated or coerced but stood their ground when the state prosecutors tried to browbeat them into submission.

We also salute all the Civil Society groups including CARL and the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone for standing up for the rights of all Sierra Leoneans - this time the rights of the soldiers and members of their family.


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