''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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Monday August 31, 2015 - More than two weeks after the hype and hysteria the killers and rapists that sent poor Hannah Bockarie to an early grave are yet to be brought to justice. Despite the police promising a speedy investigation they still have to tell the public where Hannah was murdered before her body was transported to a beach close to a police station!!!Beatrice Fofanah - UMC Coordinator. Wants action by the authorities.

We are talking of at least two heinous crimes - rape and murder - and the police have to tell the public of where the rape was carried out, where the murder most foul was committed and who were the main actors including those who arranged that her body should be left on a beach so close to a police station.

Were the killers hoping that her body would be washed out to sea to give the impression that she drowned or that she drowned at sea and her body washed up?

These are questions that need to be answered and quickly by investigation officers in a country where cases of rape are treated with levity with survivors in a number of cases afraid to report matters to the law lest they be accused of inviting rape upon themselves.

We are pleased at the concern generated by sections of Sierra Leone society, more so the efforts of civil society groups who believed that perpetrators of such crimes should be brought to book. We note the concern of the UN Office in Sierra Leone - with this headline on their online pages dated August 20, 2015 - "Statement from the United Nations Country Team in Sierra Leone over the rape and murder of a young woman at Lumley Beach, Freetown"

It says "The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Sierra Leone is shocked by the report that an 18-year-old girl, Hannah Bockarie, was brutally raped and murdered on 13 August 2015 at Lumley Beach, Freetown. The UNCT condemns this horrendous act in the strongest terms and it calls on the Sierra Leone Government to conduct a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the girl’s death and to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. The UN Team conveys it heartfelt sympathy to Hannah’s mother and family.

The UN in Sierra Leone is no stranger to reports of rape cases in the country as it supports a number of ventures aimed at protecting girls, women and other vulnerable groups. It is no surprise to see this as a part of the statement.

"The UN recalls that sexual assault against women, especially gang rape, was rampant during the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone. The UNCT is also cognizant of the fact that the Government of Sierra Leone passed legislation in 2007 making the sexual abuse of women a criminal act. In addition, it reminds the authorities that Sierra Leone ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Right of Women in Africa, a Charter that requests the state parties to protect women from all forms of violence, particularly sexual and verbal violence...

“Sexual violence in public spaces, like Lumley Beach, is what makes cities across the world unsafe for women and girls,” said David McLachlan-Karr, the UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone. “This horrific and barbaric act is a clear example of the kind of violence against women that limits the ability of women and girls to reach their full potential and exercise their basic human rights”.

The United Nations Country Team is encouraged to note the various actions taken by the women’s movement in the country and pledge the UN’s support to continue to stand by the women of Sierra Leone in the promotion of their social, political and economic rights. Today the UN calls upon all stakeholders: the Government of Sierra Leone, the police, women’s organizations, men, young people, the media and the private sector to work diligently and speedily in the investigation of this case and to join forces in the fight against impunity for the violence committed too often against women.

The UN System calls on the authorities to dedicate more resources to raise public awareness about such crimes and to toughen sanctions against those that commit acts of violence against women and girls."

The Concord Times online newspaper has a report which tells the story as it is now known to the public with assurances given by the Police Chief, one Francis Munu who is quoted as saying -

“We have been very reluctant to give clearances for demonstrations of any kind, but we have readily granted permission for this procession because we saw the need for solidarity for justice said the Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu. The Inspector General went on to say that, “We need the public and all interest groups to cooperate with us in our efforts to apprehend these criminals and bring them to book”.

The procession referred to is the march and candle light vigil by civil society groups alarmed and appalled by the death of Hannah Bockarie. It would seem, according to the news outlet that this was not an isolated case.

"The head of the Serious Crimes Division at the Criminal Investigation Department, S.T. Kamara yesterday informed that “We have prioritised this case, we have in fact just concluded a meeting on the status of the investigation and we are determined to get to the bottom of this case. Tomorrow, we would carry out a post-mortem in furtherance of the investigations and we are already in contact with the family. We have assured them of our commitment to bring the perpetrators before the law.”

The head of the Serious Crimes Division went on to state that not too long ago another young lady was gang raped, murdered and her body abandoned in an unfinished building within the Regent community. “But eventually, we were able to snuff out one of the criminals who has in fact confessed his involvement in the crime. The matter is now being prosecuted in court, the crime officer said."

Among the many civil groups that participated in the march for justice and a halt to rape is a group from one of the key churches in Sierra Leone - the United Methodist Church. On the UMC online news outlet is this headline dated August 27, 2015 - "Death of young woman in Sierra Leone sparks protests" in which we get an update on the cause of death of poor Hannah - that she had died of strangulation - a deliberate and foul deed to snuff her life out in a most horrific manner.

"The brutal death and gang rape of a 17-year-old girl has galvanized United Methodist women in the Sierra Leone Conference to add their voices to protests against violence to women. On Aug. 20, United Methodists joined women’s groups in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, to protest the murder of Hannah Bockarie, a commercial sex worker whose body was found abandoned on Lumley Beach. Bockaire would have turned 18 on Aug. 28. The crime and reports that photos of her corpse were circulated has angered women’s rights groups, religious leaders and civil society groups.

“We are here this evening in solidarity with all women’s groups in the country to conduct a vigil in honour and memory of Hannah Bockarie who was brutally raped and eventually killed. We are saying to the world and to the government of Sierra Leone that we are no longer ready to accept violence of any form against women.

We are saying ‘no’ to rape which we have noticed is on the increase in our country,” said Beatrice Fofanah, Sierra Leone Conference women’s coordinator, who led a group of United Methodist who joined the national rally.

"In the United Methodist Church, we have always exhibited zero tolerance to any form of violence against women,” Fofanah said.

“And we will continue to do that because when one woman is hurt, all of us are hurt. Today. it is Hannah; who knows who will be the next victim?

We are sending a message to the government and the international community to join us to end this terrible monster in our country.”

Women’s groups have been venting their rage on radio and television. A Twitter account, #WeAreAllHannah, was launched immediately and contributions have been pouring in support of the women through the account.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Joseph Foray Bockarie, the deceased girl’s grandfather, lit the first candle to mark the beginning of the procession of hundreds of women dressed in black in a solidarity march. A few men also dressed in black joined the women.

The women sang the protest song, “We Shall Overcome,” and carried placards that read, “We Want Justice,” “We are all Hannah,” and “No more rape.”

Wreaths were laid at the exact spot where Bockaire’s corpse was found.

Post mortem results released at the weekend by the government pathologist found the young girl had a fractured skull and suffered brain haemorrhage. The pathologist concluded cause of death was from “manual strangulation.”

“Whatever Hannah was, she certainly did not deserve to be raped and murdered. It appears there has been some lapses in our security,” said Fofanah.

While we welcome the reward being offered by the government for any information that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators, we cannot help but think that it could well be a smoke and mirrors knee-jerk reaction to pressure on the government to be seen to be doing something.

Kindly recall what we had on our website - this one of March 8, 2010 - five years ago as Sierra Leone joined the international community on celebrating international Women's Day.

March 8, 2010 - Celebrating our women - Today 8th March is a day set aside to celebrate the lives of the women of Sierra Leone as members of the international and global community observing this year's theme - "Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All”  

The Sierra Herald joins women all over the world, more especially in Sierra Leone where the expression and the enjoyment of the rights of women remain an illusion more so in the rural areas where "traditional values" are used as cover to exploit, ill-treat and and marginalise women.

The Sierra Herald notes especially, the report of the Justice Bankole-Thompson report The learned Justice Bankole-Thompsonafter the attack on the headquarters of the opposition in which among the violence perpetrated on supporters of the party, including women, political capital was made of the report with the President's own Press Secretary Sheka Tarawallie and State House website gloating (that page is here just in case they have taken if off) over a section of the report which stated

"Predicated upon the totality of the evidence presented before the Commission and upon the facts as found, and guided by applicable principles of law covering the different facets of the Inquiry, both in its factual and legal perspectives, the Commission finds each allegation of rape set out in Part 3 of the Report, unsustainable in law"

The learned judge knew that proving rape without the necessary forensic equipment and trained staff would be very difficult and dared not put his hard-earned reputation on the line but was good enough to recommend that government puts in place the necessary machinery that would not see the Police becoming a part of the repressive state machinery against women.

The government was also advised to investigate the other aspects of the violence visited upon the opposition men and women. Among the recommendationsHas the President lost his vision? Photo: Sierra Express Media

Based on the evidence before the commission of a strong perception on the part of victim/witnesses that the Police were in collusion with the alleged perpetrators in victimizing them, we recommend that Government considers the advisability and expediency of investigating allegations of this nature reflecting adversely on Police neutrality, impartiality and professionalism.

Indeed it is worth reminding the Press Secretary and State House of this article found on one international website which claims that "Rape suspects have a field day in Sierra Leone" because, according to the report from the UN Office in Freetown

.......not a single suspect was convicted for 927 crimes in the country in 2009. Figures provided by National Family Support Unit indicate that during the course of last year, 313 rape cases were referred to court, 460 are still being investigated, 40 are pending while 122 were resolved or retracted and only two dismissed.

This is the story of the fate of women in Sierra Leone where State House continues to gloat over Justice Bankole-Thompson's report which investigated allegations of rape and violence visited upon Sierra Leone's women. It was as if no violence was perpetrated against the women and other party supporters!!!!

We still await government action on violence perpetrated by State security forces - the OSD - against the girls and women of Bumbuna. It was in that violence that Musu Conteh was killed by the security forces. An investigation by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone pointed the finger at the perpetrators. Up to now nothing has been done to bring the perpetrators to justice.

It is often said that it takes just a spark to set off a revolution for the good of the people and we do hope that the march, demonstration and candle light vigil held in memory of the brutal rape and murder of poor Hannah Bockarie will set in motion the much-needed positive action by the authorities that would lift the cover of protection enjoyed by like-minded rapists and murderers.

It is time for action. Now.


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