Amnesty International Requests for Whereabouts of Palo Conteh & Two Others 

By Amin Kef Sesay                   

Amnesty International has in a public statement dated 12 May 2020 called on Authorities in Sierra Leone to reveal the whereabouts of a former Defense Minister and two others arrested since 19 March 2020, as well as allow them access to their lawyers, families and guarantee a fair trial.

The rights-based organization highlighted that former Minister Alfred Paolo Conteh was arrested on 19 March 2020 for stepping in the State House with a gun ahead of a meeting on COVID-19 responses. It also mentioned how Retired Colonel Anthony Sinnah, Deputy Commissioner of the National Commission on Small Arms and Prince George Jusu were also arrested in relation to the same incident.

According to Amnesty International they were charged with treason and other related crimes and their trial is ongoing with hearings scheduled to resume next week.

“On 29 April, five inmates and two prison guards died following a riot amid COVID-19 case at Freetown’s prison where the three accused were held.  They were then transferred in an unknown location following that incident,” the organization also revealed.

Amnesty International said it is calling for information on the whereabouts of the detainees and the application of standard minimum rules for their treatment: standard accommodation, personal hygiene, food, medical services and other health care.

They pointed out that according to their lawyers there are concerns about the safety of their clients adding that the prison authorities have not yet responded to their letter requesting access to their clients.

Amnesty International stated that even if lawyers cannot see the detainees in prison due to the measures put in place to fight COVID-19, authorities must ensure that lawyers are able to communicate with them, to assess their health and to coordinate their defense strategy.

It continued by maintaining that fair trial principles should be applied including the detainees having adequate opportunity to prepare a case, participate in future hearings, present arguments and evidence and challenge or respond to opposing arguments or evidence.

The organization furthered that they should be entitled to consult and be represented by a legal representative or other qualified persons chosen by them at all stages of the proceedings.


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