3.2 Management and Command Responsibility
173. The police response to the events in Bumbuna was mismanaged and not well coordinated. From the testimonies of senior police officers, it is not clear who was in command. Each one of the senior officers involved and confirmed to have been present during the skirmishes denied being in charge of the operations in Bumbuna.
174. Asked who gave the order to use live ammunition, W13 told the Panel that he did not issue such an order and that some officers were out in the streets unsupervised. W8 told the Panel that he was not in a position to issue command or be in charge because he was held hostage at the African Minerals Guest House. “But like I said earlier the OSD commander and I were lodged at the African Minerals Guest House at the time when the firing was taking place. So at that time the firing was taking place we were not even in a position to issue command. If we were there we would have been able to issue the right type of command. But when the men are left unsupervised a lot of them will take the situation into their own hands or do things out of the usual command. I heard that there was live shooting all over the place. Yes, I heard live firing,” W8 told the Panel.
175. However, because Superintendent Samuel Benedict Vandi was the most senior officer on the ground, it would be assumed that he was also in command. W37, Deputy Inspector General of Police testified before the Panel and explained the chain of Command in the Bumbuna operation making it clear that Superintendent Samuel Benedict Vandi was in overall command whereas Superintendent Lamin Sesay was the one in Command of the OSD officers some whom were armed.
176. No one wanted to take responsibility for what happened in Bumbuna. W8 told the Panel that “Yes as a strategic officer I had an impact on what happened, but since there was a chain of command, everybody will have to answer in his own capacity.” W13 said he was sick and at the police station on the 18th of April 2012. He said, “If I was the most senior officer on the ground, I would have gone through the stakeholders to resolve the impasse, but if the armed personnel have done what they did they can better explain.” He went on to say “Of all of us, Vandi was the most senior and therefore was in charge.” W17 said he was relegated to the kitchen.
177. Whereas W8 told the Panel that he was held hostage at the Guest House for the whole morning of the 17th, it was evident at the Inquiry that statement is not is not correct. W8 was held up for 30 minutes and certainly not for more than an hour, going by the testimony of W13 and W34. W13 told the Panel that, “I did not send a vehicle for them, but they were there on the ground. Their stay in the guest house did not last for more than 30 minutes.” W8 therefore misled the Panel on the issue of who was in command in Bumbuna on the morning of the 18th April 2012.
178. On the other hand, assuming that W8 and W34 were indeed held hostage, a police operation should not go without a clear chain of command. This was the view ofW36, the former AIG North-East Region who told the Panel that if W8 and W34 were held hostage, someone else should have been in charge. W13 and W17 should therefore have been in charge. He further told the Panel that Lamin Sesay was the most senior OSD officer during the Bumbuna operation.
179. The mismanagement of the Bumbuna crisis by the police is also attributed to a structural problem that is evident in the relationship between the Operations Support Division (OSD) and the General Duty Police. This confusion made it difficult to identify the source of the orders to use live ammunition. This confusion also makes it easy for the police to generally play blame game and attempt to escape accountability, because the current structure allows for a “ping pong” game in which no one takes responsibility for the actions of the police.
180. The OSD problem is a long running problem that received the attention of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC 2004 vol.2: 151). The TRC recommended that the disbandment of the OSD be given serious consideration (208).
181. W13 also told the Panel that it is very difficult for the OSD to take command from General Duty Personnel. W8 told the Panel that some officers are not educationally inclined (meaning that they have limited understanding) and therefore feel that they can only take command from the immediate commanders of their units. “Yes, I was the most senior officer but my duties do not include commanding the OSD”, he said. W13 said, “Honestly, it is difficult at times with our men on the ground especially when dealing with the OSD officers. It is difficult for them to take command from us the General Duty Officers.” He later said “It is difficult to tell whether the OSD is a force within the Sierra Leone Police.” W13 went on to say that there were still some officers out in the streets even after all personnel had been recalled from the streets. 182. It was not very clear whether political interference was a factor in the response of the police. W3 told the Panel that a senior government minister had called him proposing that they invoke Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP), a joint police military operation. A different witness alluded to some form of interference when he said, “No we are not independent. What we do is in accordance with what the leaders want”.
183. From the above, it is not clear therefore how senior police officers account for their decisions and who is held responsible when things go wrong. This is a major gap in policing in Sierra Leone.
184. W37 told the Panel that they have agreed to set up an Independent Police Board. This testimony is corroborated by the testimony of W29, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who also told the Panel that plans are at an advanced stage to set up an Independent Police Commission whose membership will be “99% civilian”. W29 also told the Panel that plans are underway to reorient the OSD to bring their operations in line with tenets of community policing and meet international standards on law enforcement.
3.3 Accountability for the Use of Ammunition
185. The Panel was unable to get an explanation as to who exactly among the police was firing and to get a comprehensive account on the use of live ammunition in Bumbuna. The Inquiry Secretariat wrote to W8 as the man who was in charge of the Bumbuna operation for an incidence report. His report, Exhibit HRCSL B 11, was not an incidence report, but rather a letter explaining the procedure of accounting for arms, which informed the Panel that once there is an incidence, the Complaint, Discipline and Internal Investigations Department (CDIID) move in to investigate.
186. W34, the officer the Panel had been told was the highest in Command of the OSD officers on the ground, told the Panel that he could not prepare an Incidence Report because he said, Samuel Benedict Vandi, W8 was in charge.
187. Exhibit HRCSL B 51 (a) was another report sent to the Secretariat of the Inquiry by the Director, OSD. This report is labeled “Occurrence Report” and was not signed. The report only accounted for one incidence of firing, the discharge of a weapon by W25 who was alleged to have been involved in a scuffle with people who attempted to disarm him.
188. The three reports did not account for all the other bullets and the number of people who sustained gunshot wounds. W13 told the Panel that his colleague, Supt. Lamin Sesay checked the guns of his men and found that some had missing bullets. He said “…some had 5 missing. Some had 4 missing...”. Why this information was not included in the Incidence Reports sent to the Inquiry Secretariat remains a mystery.
189. In its quest to get an Incidence Report, the Secretariat also wrote to Al Sheikh Kamara, AIG and Director Operations who, the Panel was informed, would be responsible for issuing an Incidence Report on the part of the General Duty Police personnel. Unfortunately, the same report received from the Director of OSD was the same the Director of Operations sent to Inquiry Secretariat, also referring to one incidence of the discharge of a rifle. Asked by Assisting Counsel whether it would be logical to assume that the one rifle accounted for in the Incident Report was the one that injured 9 people at different locations within Bumbuna, W36 said, “No, it is not logical”.
190. The Community people identified and accused one unnamed physically challenged officer (who walks with a limp)as one of those that were indiscriminately using live ammunition on Bumbuna residents.
191. It is clear that even though the SLP have an accountability mechanism on the use of ammunition, this accountability mechanism was not adhered to.
3.4 The Relationship with African Minerals (SL) Ltd
192. The relationship between the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and AML is of grave concern to the people of Bumbuna who perceive the police as biased in their work in favour of AML. This perception requires that the SLP and AML should review their relationship. The Panel was told that Rev. Bangura was arrested by police officers using a HAWK vehicle driven by the AML Liaison Officer. The Panel was also informed that AML has a security arrangement with the SLP and occasionally provides material assistance to them including transport. Indeed, Supt. Vandi attended the Public Hearing in Bumbuna aboard an AML vehicle. The people during the fact finding mission and the FGDs alleged that the police were brutal because they had received money from AML.
3.5 Community Violence against the Police
193. Two police officers, W24 and W25 sustained severe head injuries which according to W14, a Community Health Officer at the Makeni Police Clinic, required eight (8) stitches. According to W14, the wounds were from machetes and knifes because they had straight cuts. Several others including nine (9) Police personnel sustained minor injuries.
194. W25 says he was ambushed near a dwelling house close to the police station, by people who tried to disarm him. W24 came to his rescue but was also severely wounded by the crowd.
195. W24 and W25 are good examples why the Police need to revisit the recruitment policy. They looked vulnerable, weak in body and not well educated. This makes them easy to be molested, disarmed and misused by ordering them to carry out instructions that are manifestly illegal.
196. Principle 18
of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement
Officials 1990 says that governments and law enforcement agencies shall ensure
that all law enforcement officials are selected by proper screening procedures,
have appropriate moral, psychological and physical qualities for the effective
exercise of their
197. The youths also hurled stones at the police. Exhibits HRCSL B 37 (1-6) which are photographs tendered by W17 show barricades on the roads made from fallen trees, motor vehicle tires, wood, stones, handcarts and remnants of plastic bottles containing petrol. This evidence is corroborated by a police video tendered by W17, Exhibit HRCSL B 21. The youth said they put up barricades to prevent more policemen from coming to Bumbuna.
4.0 SEXUAL AND GENDER BASED VIOLENCE AS EXPERIENCED BY THE WOMEN OF BUMBUNA
198. The police
operation in Bumbuna was characterized by lack of respect for women and their
rights. In particular, the women who came into contact with the police were
subjected to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). This took the form of
severe beatings on their buttocks, verbal insults and other forms of
molestation. A pregnant woman was arrested and later released. The police
arrested a breastfeeding mother found in a hospital. The women were also forced
to partner with other women to dance to sexual
199. “They arrested the women then tied them together using their lappa (cloth women tie around like a skirt) and asked them to sing and dance while insulting their mothers”, W11 told the Panel. Supt. Benedict Samuel Vandi, W8 was singled out by the women as having rained “mammy cuss” on them. “Ar want mek dem put dem bombo befo me mek a cherr am for dem”, W11 repeated to the Panel what she said Supt. Vandi, W8 had told the market women. W8 vehemently denied leading his men in insulting the market women.
200. W27 told the Panel that the police told the women at the market that they will “vaginate” their newly supplied guns on them. This means that they will be used for the very first time on them (likening it to the situation when a woman has sex for the very first time.) “The Police were around using abusive language, entering into kitchens and throwing pots away. Young Police Officers continued to use unprintable words against women”, said W27.
201. The women are expecting a public apology from the police. “The relationship between the community and the police is sour. I was expecting OC Konneh to have talked to us the market women”, W11 told the Panel.
202. The police
failed to show respect for the women’s Secret Society which had mobilized in
order to restore calm. The women explained that their intention was to ensure
that men stayed indoors and not aggress on the police in order to restore peace.
Traditionally, men are supposed to stay indoors when the women’s Society parades
its mask devil, Shekereh, out of respect for women. The police did not show such
respect and instead harassed the women and shot at them. The police action
poured scorn on the women’s effort to restore calm in Bumbuna. This act not only
shows lack of cultural sensitivity but also the failure of the police to
recognize the role and the right of women to participate in the search for
solutions during times of crisis. “We the women were dancing behind the masked
devil, holding leaves and singing traditional songs. We had believed that once
it was just us the women outside, there will be no bloodletting because the
police officers knew the significance of the songs we were singing and also that
the men were not
fired at this lady [the late Musu Conteh] and she dropped in front of my sister
and I for us to see. The lady cried out,‘I am dying for my right’, and she was
shot at again. Altogether, she as shot at three times and we all panicked and
ran because anybody who came to rescue the lady was shot at.”
5.0 LABOUR RIGHTS AND THE STRIKE ACTION BY THE WORKERS OF AFRICAN MINERALS LTD
203. The events of 16th to 18th of April 2012 began with a strike action by disgruntled AML workers. In a letter to their General Manger, in which they communicated their decision to stage a protest, [Exhibit HRCSL B 25 9(b)], the workers complained about poor working conditions and relationship with expatriate staff, medical cover, casual labour or short contracts employment, arbitrary termination of contracts, poor meals and long working days with no commensurate compensations. They further complained that foreigners serving at similar levels are paid better than nationals, discriminatory application of alcohol rules, the welfare of AML workers seconded to HAWK, end of year bonus and the question of a trade union of their choice. They also complained of maltreatment by expatriates including racial slurs and physical assault.
204. Following a
meeting on the 24thApril 2012 in which the government was represented by several
ministers, representatives of AML, the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police,
representatives of the Office of National Security (ONS) and the management of
AML, a Communiqué was signed between the workers’ representatives and AML
[Exhibit B 30 (b)]. In this Communiqué the management of AML agreed to address
the issues of working conditions, working relationship with colleagues, trade
union matters and security of
205. The Panel
was unable to ascertain whether or not the conditions agreed upon in the
Communiqué of 24th April 2012 were fully implemented, because the Commission did
not have access to African Minerals Workers except for W21. Furthermore, W23,
Musa Bangura representing the management of AML and specifically Mr. Frank Timis,
206. However, the Panel was able to see a letter from the Executive Chairman, AML Sierra Leone, Mr. Gibrill Bangura, dated 8thMay 2012 and addressed to the national staff in which he communicated the decision to increase the salaries of national staff by 16%, effective January 2012. It further stated that Mr. Timis had approved a budget for the skills training centres in Magburaka and Pepel [Exhibit HRCSL B 30 (d)]. These plans are laudable if implemented as they will go a long way in addressing some of the restlessness among AML workers and job seekers.
207. The contents of this communication were corroborated by the testimony of Mr. Musa Bangura, W23 who is also the Logistics Officer of AML. However, W21 told the Panel that not all of their grievances have been addressed. He said only eight(8) had been addressed, while two (2),the issues of a trade union of choice and that relating to salaries still remain unaddressed.
208. AML should fully implement the Communiqué of the 24th April 2012 and periodically review the salaries and working conditions of its workers to ensure that unaddressed grievances by workers do not result into events similar to those of the 16th to18th April 2012.
5.1 The Trade Union Question
209. The right to form and belong to a trade union of is a fundamental right covered under the right to association as provided for under section 26 (1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991. This right is violated when companies force workers to join management friendly trade unions or threaten them with sacking if they unionize and join a trade union of their choice.#
the Government of Sierra Leone has signed and ratified the core ILO conventions
that protect worker’s rights. These conventions are The Freedom of Association
and Protection of the Rights to Organize Convention 1948; the Right to Organize
and Collective Bargaining Convention 1949; Discrimination (Employment and
211. The right for workers to belong to a trade union of their choice is recognized under the ILO Convention on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. Article 2 of the Convention gives workers and employers the right, without any distinction, to establish and join organizations of their choice. Article 4 of the Convention provides that workers’ and employers’ organizations shall not be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority. Article 8(2) of the Convention states that “…the law of the land shall not be such as to impair, nor shall it be so applied as to impair, the guarantees provided for under this Convention”.
212. The case of AML workers is complicated because legally speaking, they have no choice but to join the United Mining Workers Union (UMU) since the Bargaining Certificate of the trade union of their choice, the Mining and Allied Services Employees Union (MASEU) was withdrawn on the 19th September 2011. The certificate had been issued to them on the 20th of May 2011. The circumstances of the withdrawal of this bargaining certificate are not clear.
213. The workers in a Memo dated 27th September 2011 (Exhibit HRCSL B29(11)communicated to the management of AML their decision to withdraw their membership from UMU to MASEU, citing among other reasons, that UMU was weak because it was dependent on AML for petrol putting into doubt UMU’s ability to independently negotiate with AML on behalf of the workers.
Communiqué of the 24th of April, 2012 indicated that the Ministry of Labour and
Social Security had promised the workers that their request to constitute
themselves into a “workers’ union affiliated with the Sierra Leone Labour
Congress will be given due consideration within two weeks,” [Exhibit b 30 (b0)].
This has not happened and is not likely to happen soon. This is because two
questions remain unanswered. Did the workers request to have a trade union
affiliated to the Sierra Leone Labour Congress or did
215. This situation obtains because, without express provisions of the Regulation of Wages and Industrial Relations Act, 1971 on the question of whether several confederation of trade unions can exist in Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Labour chose to interpret the law restrictively.
216. In Exhibit HRCSL B 29(10), a memo dated 18th August 2011, seems to suggest that two unions can co-exist in the same sector. If this indeed can happen, then steps should be taken to ensure that it is legally possible for AML workers to join a trade union of their choice.
217. The protection offered by trade unions is one way of containing industrial unrest and ensuring peace and security when there is a conflict between workers and their employers. The absence of a recognized trade union to negotiate and guide the decisions and activities of the AML workers is one of the factors that precipitated the event of the 16th to18th April 2012. W21 told this Panel that he did not know that workers are required by law to give a twenty one (21)-day notice before engaging in a protest. W21 is the Vice Chairperson of the Workers’ Union at the AML mining site in Feregbeya. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn B. Kargbo, W29, stated that the events of the 16th to 18thApril, 2012 could have been prevented if the trade union of choice of the workers had a Bargaining Certificate.
218. In his testimony W29 blamed the events of the 16thto18th April 2012 on the activities of MASEU because, he stated, they had given AML workers very high expectations that they could not meet. However, the Panel did not find any evidence to substantiate this claim.
219. The Ministry of Labour and the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice should work together to review the Regulation of Wages and Industrial Relations Act in order to bring it into line with the spirit of section 26 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone and meet the obligations of Sierra Leone under the core ILO convention to make it possible for AML workers to belong to a trade union of their choice.
6.0 STAKEHOLDER RESPONSIBILITY AND RESPONSE
6.1 The Role of the Paramount Chief
220. The role of the Paramount Chief in the recruitment and payment of the workers of AML was identified as one of the key reasons for disquiet among the workers and the Paramount Chief on one hand and the community people on the other. Community people accused the Paramount Chief of discrimination in the recruitment and payment of local staff on behalf of AML.
221. The process
is not transparent and is therefore the subject of speculation and insinuations.
Most importantly, the process is not understood by the community people or job
seeking youth. This is the information gathered through FGDs (especially with
the youth) and during the fact-finding mission. W13 and W8 also mentioned these
222. It was further alleged that part of the tension emanated from the failure of the Paramount Chief to pay stone-pitchers, trench-diggers and grass planters. The Paramount Chief denied all these allegations. These categories of jobs have been sub-contracted to the PC by AML in order to appease the indigenes of Bumbuna who have been repeatedly accusing AML of employing “foreigners”.
223. W23 told the Panel that the Chief does not pay any one on behalf of AML. It is only stone pitchers that he identifies who he said are paid by AML. This confirms the need for transparency so that rumours that have the potential to disrupt peace do not get rooted in the peoples’ minds. It is said that if a lie is told too often and for too long, it will be believed as the truth.
224. W34 told the Panel that the relationship of the Paramount Chief with certain people in the Chiefdom is not good. These statements were repeated by W13 and W8.
225. There were allegations that certain members of a rival ruling house might have opportunistically usurped the workers’ strike to foment trouble for the Paramount Chief. The Panel did not have any evidence to confirm these allegations. W22, a senior member of the said rival ruling house, denied these claims. He, through Exhibit B 27(a), a written statement that he read before the Panel on the 18th of July 2012, brought out issues of marginalization of some sections of the Chiefdom in the distribution of chiefdom resources and issues of the relationship between the Paramount Chief and AML. The Panel did not have the time to inquire into these issues in depth because the Chieftaincy issues in Bumbuna fall outside the terms of reference of this Inquiry.
226. However, since these issues are seen to be fueling discontent in Bumbuna, they need to be urgently resolved. A combination of issues in the same area that go unresolved for long can lead to public disorder situations even when the trigger events of such public disorder situations are unrelated.
6.2 The Role of African Minerals Ltd
227. The key questions to answer in this section are whether:
a. AML was complicit in the acts of the police during the events of 16th to 18th April 2012; and,
b. Whether AML was unresponsive to their workers grievances leading to frustration and despondency.
228. According to
Principle 11 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, AML has
the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. According to the
commentary under this principle, the responsibility to respect human rights
exists independent of the government’s ability or willingness to protect human
rights and goes beyond complying with national laws and regulations protecting
human rights. The responsibility of companies entails full compliance with
international human rights standards. These standards are found in the
International Bill of Human Rights (UDHR, ICCPR, IESCR) and the ILO core
conventionsnamely: the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights to
Organize Convention, 1948; and the Right to Organize, Collective Bargaining
Convention, 1949; Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Recommendation,
229. Principle 13 urges companies, in this case, AML, to:
(i) avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur; and,
(ii) seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.
230. Business relationships are understood to mean relationships with their business partners, entities in their value chain or any other state and nonstate Companies are therefore implicated in rights abuses through their associations with third parties such as government agencies including the police and the security forces, other companies and private militia.
231. According to Principle 17 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, a corporation can be complicit in human rights violations through their acts or omissions. This principle defines complicity in both legal and non-legal perspectives. A company will be seen to be complicit in the non-legal sense if it is seen to benefit from an abuse committed by a third party.
232. In the legal sense, complicity arises when it is proved that one aided and abetted or contributed to the violation of a right by providing material assistance or encouragement that has a substantial effect on the commission of the act or crime according to the commentary under principle 17.
233. Allegations were made that the police were transported to Bumbuna using a bus from AML. This allegation was not proved. There was an allegation that the police went to arrest Rev. Daniel Bangura with a HAWK vehicle driven by the AML Police Liaison Officer. HAWK is one of the subcontractors of AML. This allegation was proved. There was another allegation that AML had given the Police Twenty Four million Leones (Le 24,000,000) and that was why they reacted so brutally against the people of Bumbuna. The allegation was not proved.
“I blame African
Minerals because they bribed the police to cause confusion and destroy our
“They [AML] gave
the OC 24 Million Leones. That is why they misbehaved.”
234. Though there
is scanty evidence to arrive at a finding of complicity, AML needs to review its
relationship with the police and the government as a whole to ensure that it
exerts positive influence in favour of the promotion and protection of human
rights. This does not require that AML ceases to support government and its
agencies like the police, rather, that AML should seek to give such support in
ways that do not feed the perception of lack of independence on the part of the
police in situations that involve AML. It has
235. On the second question, it appears that AML had left workers’ issues unaddressed for far too long, leading to frustration and despondency. That is why the workers resorted to a protest action. It appears that the management of AML is alienated from the low ranking staff of the company leading them to believe that Management can only address their grievances if they protest.
236. AML should ensure that all channels of communication are open to all staff including illiterate staff and ensure that the complaints of workers are attended to in a timely manner. AML should take steps to ensure that it addresses issues raised by both its workers and the community in Bumbuna. It should ensure periodic review of its activities to ensure that the rights of workers or the Bumbuna community are not violated.
237. As indicated earlier, the root cause of the events of the 16thto 18th April, 2012 was dissatisfaction by the workers of AML who embarked on a strike, which was joined by people who had other grievances against the company. That was why the protest action began with AML workers and ended up being a whole community affair in which most of the victims of the violence were community people.
238. The Community people have their own grievances against AML. These include youth who have been unable to secure a job or whose contracts had been terminated or not renewed. The women are angry about the water source and want it addressed. AML was accused of interfering with the water source for the people in Bumbuna without providing an alternative. Others are dissatisfied by the deplorable state of the roads in Bumbuna which they blamed on the huge trucks of AML. There is also a general sense of dissatisfaction because the people feel they are not adequately benefiting from the mining activities of AML or the hydro-electric dam. These grievances may be legitimate or illegitimate. The bottom line is that AML has a lot of communication and public education to do amongst the community members and job seekers.
“We walk long
distances on muddy roads to fetch water to cook. We are suffering and our
suffering is caused by African Minerals.”
239. Principles 28 and 29 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, urge companies to have a grievance mechanism that is available to workers and communities. This mechanism should be transparent, accessible to all, user friendly and well publicised. AML should review and strengthen its grievance mechanisms to ensure that they are accessible to all the workers including illiterate ones. AML should also put in place a stronger mechanism to manage community relations. This grievance mechanism should be independent from the office of the Paramount Chief.
6.3 The Role of the Media
240. The Community Radio in Bumbuna was commended by the people for preaching peace all night long on the night of the 17th April 2012. However, it was also noted that there was a limitation in terms of the choice of information that was being broadcasted to the people which had the unintended results of heightening tensions. For example, the observation of the Tonkolili Progressive Union (TPU) in its report, Exhibit HCSRL B 34, was that phoning lines and allowing the people to phone with information about casualties had the unintended effect of heightening tension in Bumbuna. It is a technical skill to ensure that a journalist keeps the people informed without at the same time unwittingly inflaming passions. This technical capacity is required and the personnel of Radio Numbara need to be equipped with such skills.
241. On his part, the Torchlight Newspaper Editor, Brima Sannoh, W37, published as headline news on the 3rd of May 2013 an article titled “‘SLPP Sniper’ Killed Bumbuna Woman”. During his testimony, he was unable to name the reporter who authored the report until a day after the Order for him to do so within two (2) hours given by the Chair Presiding over the Inquiry. He was also unable to substantiate any of the claims he made in his article. It is important to note that these claims were not corroborated or raised by anyone amongst the many persons the Commission interacted with since the beginning to the end of the Inquiry. This is also an example of irresponsible journalism that escalates situations of conflict which is against the IMC Act Media Code of Practice.
6.4The Role of Civil Society Organisations
242. Civil society also responded to the Bumbuna crisis by sending delegations to conduct preliminary investigations. This was done by the Tonkolili Progressive Union (TPU), the Natural Resources Governance and Economic Justice Platform – Sierra Leone and the Trade Union Confederation of Sierra Leone (TUC-SL).
243. TPU went further and met some of the medical expenses of the victims who sustained gunshot wounds.
7.0 THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS THAT CHARACTERIZED THE EVENTS OF 16TH TO 18TH APRIL 2012
244. The events of the 16th to 18th of April were characterized by gross human rights violations.
Violation of the Right to Life
245. The late Musu Conteh’s death was a violation of the right to life. An account of the circumstances under which Musu Conteh died have only been given by community members who repeatedly told the Commission that she was shot as the women paraded their Secret Society Devil Shekereh. The women were dancing towards the police station when the incident occurred. Though none of the witnesses from the Police told the Panel where the late Musu Conteh was killed, the spot has been identified by community members and dancing from that distance it remains unclear how the lady and others posed a threat to the police station or the Fuel Farm of AML. The police witnesses were unwilling or unable to inform the Panel the circumstances and place where the late Musu Conteh was shot to death and by whom
246. Section 16 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 provides that the right to life can legally be taken in situations that involve the use of force if it is in defence of a person from unlawful violence or in defence of property or in the process of effecting a lawful arrest or preventing someone from escaping from lawful detention or for the purposes of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny. It can also be legally taken if the use of force is in order to prevent the commission of a criminal offence. Although these exceptions are very broad and fall below international standards and below the standards set by the Rules of Engagement of the Sierra Leone Police, they still do not justify the killing of the late Musu Conteh.
247. There was no evidence that Musu was not involved in any activity that would have warranted shooting by the police. The Inquiry was repeatedly told that she was shot dead while dancing for peace. Her death occurred because the police used live ammunition in a situation that did not warrant the use of live ammunition. This act violated section 16 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991, and is contrary to article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) as well as article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
248. The police shot at nine (9) young people, five (5) young men and four (4) young women including the late Musu Conteh. The remaining eight sustained serious wounds and suffered psychological trauma. The testimonies of the victims who sustained gunshots indicate that the police did not issue any warning that they were about to fire. Rule 6 of Green Card A requires that the police issue a verbal warning before firing. The Community Health Officer at the Bumbuna Community Health Centre reported that he treated eleven (11) injured people and one child who had inhaled tear gas, a chemical irritant used by police to disperse crowds.
249. The police testified that they sought to protect the Fuel Farm that belongs to AML, the residence of the Paramount Chief and the Police Station as intelligence reports had indicated that the three facilities had been earmarked for burning by the rioting youth. These testimonies of police personnel would lead one to consider whether the police were justified in shooting the victims under the duty to protect property. The evidence before the Inquiry makes it hard for one to believe that the duty to protect property was the reason for the use of live ammunition when it is considered that most of the victims were neither shot near the Fuel Farm of AML nor near the police station. They were not shot near the Chief’s compound either. W1, W5 and W9 were shot from behind. Fleeing persons could not have posed any threat to the police or any of the facilities that the police said they sought to protect.
250. In addition, the police severely beat up people some of whom had to seek medical attention. They kicked the doors of houses open, dragged out the occupants and beat them mercilessly more so if the persons were young men. They went into the hospital, molested patients and arrested a breastfeeding mother together with a young man who were both mourning a dead relative (testimony of W19).
251. The police were also throwing teargas into people’s houses.
“I met my nephew
sleeping in the house. The officers came and dragged him out of bed, beat him up
and injured his head. That night I did not sleep in Bumbuna. I was afraid. While
I was moving out of town to Foro, I saw a woman who had just come from the
shower with her towel on being beaten by police officers.”
252. Some of the residents of Bumbuna had to flee their homes to nearby villages, bushes and other towns including Makeni and Binkolo in Bombali District, Magburaka in Tonkolili and Freetown. Temporary displacement is as a result of fear which is a form of cruel and degrading treatment.
253. Article 5(c) of the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials says that “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” should be understood so as to extend the widest possible protection against abuses, whether physical or mental.
254. The Panel therefore finds that some members of the Bumbuna community were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to section 20 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991 and contrary to article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR). These acts also violated the residents’ right to privacy contrary to section 22 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 and article 17 of the ICCPR.
Arbitrary Arrest and Detention
255. It was confirmed that the police arrested twenty nine (29) people, two (2) of whom were juveniles. The two juveniles were later released and the rest were taken to the Makeni Police Station where they were remanded for one day and released without any charges being preferred against them. The people were not, before they were arrested, told why they were being arrested. The arrested persons were not shown an arrest warrant issued against them. A majority of them were not arrested in the course of committing a crime. The Commission was repeatedly told that the police would arrest any group of young men assembled together whether in their homes or in the streets.
most of those arrested were not employees of AML or connected in any way with
the protest action because several of them were dragged from their homes during
a house-to-house search. One couple recounted how they were bundled out of their
home and hurled into a waiting police truck. A pregnant woman had been arrested
and released at the Bumbuna Police station when it was revealed to the police
that the lady was pregnant.
257. The Panel therefore finds that the police subjected the residents of Bumbuna to arbitrary arrest and detention, contrary to section 17 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991; contrary to article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966; and, contrary to article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR).
The Right to Privacy
258. Further, the house-to-house search that resulted in the above mentioned arrests without search warrants violated the residents’ right privacy contrary to section 22 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 and article 17 of the ICCPR.
The Right to Property
259. The Police in their operations destroyed property by forcing doors open and kicking and firing at cooking pots. They molested and took away bread from a baker. There were reports that they broke into a telecentre and carried away mobile phones and chargers. The response of the police has been that community youth were also involved in the looting. Though the Panel cannot refute the claim that local youth were also involved in looting, the community people positively identified police officers vandalizing and carrying away property items from some residents of Bumbuna.
“It was the police who were breaking doors to get people out for torture and abuse. Even my friend who was so huge and gallant was taken out of his room forcefully through his window”, said W5.
260. The situation the police operation created in Bumbuna also made it possible for looters to take advantage and steal people’s property. The Panel therefore finds that Bumbuna residents had their right to property violated, contrary to section 21 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 and, contrary to article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR). In particular the Inquiry would like to identify Gibrilla Sesay, the baker, W7 as one such person who has credibly convinced this Inquiry that his tray of bread, his mobile phones and some money were taken away from him. He did not receive any form of compensation.
The Freedom of Expression and of the Press and Freedom of Assembly
261. Testimony from several witnesses and information gathered from FGDs confirmed that the Reverend Daniel Bangura of Numbara radio did not incite the people. Rather he counseled peace. It is the view of this Panel that the reason for arresting Rev. Bangura was that he had revealed through the radio that he was in possession of empty bullet shells which was proof that the police had used live ammunition. Similarly, the Society Women were dancing in the name of peace and should not have been dispersed with teargas and bullets.
Tonkolili Progressive Union (TPU) in its report, Exhibit HRCSL B 34, was of the
view that the Rev Bangura (W10) did a good job of calming down the people but
observed that he might have unwittingly contributed to the escalation of the
violence by opening phone lines in which people were calling with reports of
casualties and deaths thereby heightening the tension in Bumbuna. The Inquiry
was not able to prove this because the recording of the radio broadcast and
programme in question was not made available to
263. In light of the above, the freedom of expression and of the press of the society women, and the radio broadcaster were violated through police action contrary to sections 25 and 26 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6, 1991; articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966; and, contrary to articles 9 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR).
Freedom of Movement
264. The police operation curtailed people’s movement and most of them remained indoors. One young man was shot because he came out of his house to search for his wife and child. Witnesses told the Panel that no formal announcement was made to impose a curfew yet people could not move about the town because they feared to be shot. This violated the people’s right to movement contrary to section 18 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991; article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Freedom of Association
265. The issues of a trade union of choice for AML workers, for as long as it remains unresolved, is a continuing violation of the workers right to freely associate contrary to section 26 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone No. 6; 1991; article 10 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which protects the right to form and join a trade union of one’s choice and article 2of the ILO Convention on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the right to Organize. The Ministry of Labour should speedily address this issue.
Discrimination on the Basis of Race and Nationality
266. Preliminary reports on the reasons why AML workers went on strike indicated that their grievances included allegations of discrimination against them on the basis of their nationality, race or social status contrary to international and regional treaties Sierra Leone has signed. This allegation remains unproved because the Inquiry was unable to access AML Workers except for W21 who repeated the same allegations in his testimony. This allegation is serious and needs to receive the attention of the top management of AML and the Ministry of Labour.
Right to Just and Favourable Conditions of Work
267. It had also been reported that the workers of AML had gone on strike because they had been denied just and favourable conditions of work in violation of national Labour laws, article 15 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights 1966. There are reports that AML has addressed most of the workers issues as agreed in the Communiqué signed on the 24th April 2012. However, again because the Inquiry had no access to the workers of AML, the Inquiry could not confirm to what extent the workers’ demands have been met. W21 who testified before the Panel alleged that some of the issues are still unaddressed such as the question of a trade union of choice for the workers, feeding issues, respect for Muslim prayers during the month of Ramadan and maltreatment by their bosses.
268. Lastly, the Community in Bumbuna collectively suffered trauma. The Inquiry was repeatedly told how the events of the 16th to 18th April 2012 reminded the people of rebel attacks during the war. The people were terrorized and temporarily fled from their homes to nearby villages, bushes and other towns including Makeni and Freetown to seek refuge. Some of those that fled have not yet returned. The police owe the people of Bumbuna an apology.
“I felt bad about
the whole situation. It made me think about the war and specifically about a
relative that I lost. I am crying. We have forgotten about the war but it came
back to Bumbuna. All that we lost and punished for during the war came back to
us. This is what is paining my heart”. -
7.1 Systemic Violations of Human Rights: The Events of 16th to 18th April,2012 in Context
269. Sierra Leone is gifted with vast mineral deposits that are attractive to private investors. The country is also a developing country with a large part of the population living below the poverty line. Private investors have therefore become important as part of the larger government effort to alleviate poverty and create jobs.
270. The country has attracted investment in the area of mining by multinational companies which purchase vast tracts of land from communities for the extraction of minerals. With respect to human rights, there have been many allegations coming from host communities of their rights being violated. The communities seek redress by petitioning leaders, the Government and their traditional leaders. When no redress is forthcoming they have resorted to demonstrations and riots.
271. The usual response of the authorities has been to call in the police who, in most cases, have used disproportionate force resulting in loss of life, injuries, and loss of property including homes. This situation is systemic because it seems to occur in most communities that are hosting big multinational companies. The events of the 16th to 18th April, 2012 is not the first time the police were reported to have used disproportionate force in response to community protests against the operations of private companies. Such events have took place in Koidu City in Kono District in December 2007 and two people shot dead, while others sustained injuries in a protest against London Mining Co Ltd. They have also happened in Sierra Rutile in Bonthe District, Lunsar in Port Loko District and in Feregbeya in Kalasongoia Chiefdom also covering Bumbuna in November 2010.
272. One of the reasons for these repeat occurrences can be attributed to the impunity that has characterized human rights violations during police operations where no one has so far been prosecuted for using disproportionate force in response to public disorder situations.
273. The role of
Paramount Chiefs in mediating between communities and private companies is
another structural issue that, if not addressed, will continue to precipitate
unrest in host communities. The issues of accountability by Paramount Chiefs and
their dealings with private companies will continue to leave workers and
communities dissatisfied, if
7.1.1 Previous Complaints to HRCSL by Host Communities of Private Companies
274. Similar issues as those arising with respect to the events of 16th to 18th April, 2012 were raised in Complaint No HRCSL-NR 12/2010 -21 (Ibrahim Koroma, on behalf of his subjects, and the Inspector General of Police and the LUC Magburaka Police Division) by the residents of Kalasongoia Chiefdom, Tonkolili District, also covering Bumbuna.
275. On 11th December 2010, the Commission received a complaint from one Mr. Ibrahim Koroma, the Section Chief of Sonkoni Section, Kalasongoia Chiefdom, Tonkolili District, on behalf of ten (10) of his subjects. He alleged that his subjects at Kegbema and Feregbeya villages became victims of police brutality meted out by a group of Sierra Leone Police officers from the Magburaka Police Division led by one LUC U.P. Kamara. He alleged that the police brutalized them, destroyed their houses and looted their property (including monies and materials worth millions of Leones) when they went to the two villages to suppress a strike on the 25th November, 2010 in Kemedugu village, Kemedugu Section, where youths rose against the activities of AML in their community.
276. The Complainant further alleged that 28 of his subjects were unlawfully arrested, beaten up and detained during the process. The complainant further alleged that the detainees were denied access to medical treatment while in police custody. He added that the Police continued to make more arrests after the incident.
277. The Commission, through the Directorate of Complaints, Investigations and Legal Services (DCILS), investigated this complaint and compiled a report dated 9th November, 2011 (Exhibit HRCSL B 49). The people alleged that the police broke doors, kicked and beat up the residents of Feregbeya, arbitrarily arrested and detained 32 of them for an average of eleven (11) days each, looted property and invaded their privacy, by randomly searching their homes without search warrants. They further alleged that mobile phones, money and food stuffs were stolen. Two people allegedly sustained gunshot wounds, while one woman was severely beaten and hospitalized. The villages were deserted. People had to run away from their homes again.
278. This report found resonance in the findings of another report authored by the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food (SILNoRF) dated 10th December, 2010 (Exhibit HRCSL B 43). According to the SILNoRF report, the reason for the unrest in which the police responded with high handedness, was the refusal by the community people in Kemudugu to allow AML to construct a dam on a piece of land at “Yutinela”, because it would negatively affect their water source and livelihoods which included gold mining and farming.
279. It is further alleged that this situation happened because AML did not meaningfully engage with villagers and negotiate for their land.
280. A similar
situation arose in Mallen Chiefdom, Pujehun District in which as recent as 10th
October 2011 there were allegations of the arbitrary arrests of twenty seven
(27) members of the Mallen Community for reasons related to community
dissatisfaction with the manner in which SOCFIN Company Ltd acquired a large
piece of land from land holding families. According to an Incident Report sent
by the HRCSL Southern Region Office dated 13th October, 2011, (Exhibit HRCSL B
50), it is alleged that the company dealt
281. The Panel therefore concludes that the violations of rights in Bumbuna on the 16th to 18th April 2012 is a part of a systemic problem that results in the violation of human rights whenever there is a public disorder situation involving private companies and host communities.
282. The Police response has taken a pattern of high handedness and the use of disproportionate force. This pattern includes gunshot wounds, beatings, arrests and detention, vandalism and looting. These incidents always involve the same actors: police, a private company, Paramount Chiefs, host communities and workers. It has happened in the same Chiefdom, Kalasongoia in Bumbuna twice. First in October 2010 and the latest in April 2012.
7.2 Response from Government, African Minerals and Other Actors
283. The Government of Sierra Leone dispatched a high level delegation to Bumbuna which included eight(8) Ministers, representatives of the SLP, Office of National Security (ONS) and other senior government officials, according to a Government press release, dated the 18th of April, 2012 (Exhibit HRCSL B 50), to restore normalcy. In a follow-up event, Government again sent a high level ministerial delegation to Bumbuna on23rdApril, 2012. It was as a result of their intervention that the Communiqué (to end the violence) of 24th April, 2012was drafted and signed between the workers and Management of AML.
284. H.E. the President, Ernest Bai Koroma followed up on the high level government team with a personal visit in which he engaged the Bumbuna community and assured them of his government’s commitment to resolving the outstanding issues. The Panel was informed that the President gave three thousand United States Dollars (US $ 3,000), about Le 13,000,000 (thirteen million Leones), to ‘compensate’ the victims of the violence. The victims of gun shots confirmed receiving between Le1,000,000 (One Million Leones) and Le 2,000,000 (Two Million Leones) each.
285. AML, through the Paramount Chief also provided Le 40,000,000(forty million Leones) to “compensate” the market women. The women confirmed receiving this money. It was not however clear how the particular amount that each woman received was calculated.
286. A certain Ms. Marie from Mabontor donated Le 3,000,000(three million Leones), while the Resident Minister-North, Allie D. Kamara gave Le1,000,000 (One Million Leones). The Tonkolili Progressive Union (TPU) also contributed to footing the medical bills and other expenses of the people who were treated at the hospital. TPU gave Le150,000 (One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Leones)each to three hospitalized victims at the Makeni Government Hospital and paid the medical expenses of four other victims at the Community Health Centre in Bumbuna. The Resident Minister was said to have also given additional money to the three patients at the Makeni Government Hospital; one receiving Le150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand Leones) and the others receiving Le100,000 (one hundred thousand Leones) each. Other patients were not as fortunate and had to be taken away by relatives. Doris Bangura, W20 had to discharge herself from hospital, because she could not afford the cost of staying there even though she had not fully recovered.
287. However, the Bumbuna people still have questions as to how and who determined who got what amount of money from the President and AML. Meanwhile, it is worth noting that some of the victims did not receive anything, because more attention was paid to the market women and those with gunshot wounds.
288. The Government Community Health Centre in Bumbuna provided medical attention immediately, but the availability of advanced medical treatment for more complicated cases, was limited. A lot of the witnesses said they were abandoned at the Makeni Government Hospital, adding that it is only relatives, friends and strangers who came to their aid. Some had to be relocated to private hospitals for further attention. It is important to note that a few victims, such as W9 told the Panel that they still needed further medical attention.
289. The damages caused to businesses and other property were not quantified or properly assessed. These victims might be forgotten and thereby lose out, because as time goes by, it will become increasingly very difficult to prove that they incurred such losses. Individual community members who had their doors vandalized or other property carted away, were not compensated either.
290. In the course of the skirmishes, the inquiry was informed that some police officers sustained injuries. Two of the alleged victims were OSD officers who the Police say sustained severe head injuries. The Panel was further informed that they were treated at the Makeni Police Clinic and later transferred to Freetown. The Operations Support Division of the Sierra Leone Police informed the Panel through a letter dated the 31st of July, 2012, that they do not have any compensation fund to support Police officers injured in the course of duty.
291. W29, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, told the Panel that in response to the events of the 16thto 18thJune, 2012, Government is planning to establish an Independent Police Commission whose membership will be institutional and “99% civilian”. He further testified that the Government would ensure a complete re-orientation of the OSD and review the relationship between the OSD and General Duty Police officers.
292. The table below shows a list of victims who suffered various forms of damage or injury and demonstrates that the unstructured response from the government and AML excluded some deserving victims. The list is not exhaustive of all the victims of the violence; it only provides the losses, damages, injury or deprivation suffered by the victims the Inquiry Secretariat was able to get personal statements from.