As Institutions Raise Human Rights Concerns… LAJ in Court Today

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Alhaji Amadu Bah, alias LAJ
Alhaji Amadu Bah, alias LAJ

By Amin Kef-Ranger

Controversial Sierra Leonean rapper, Alhaji Amadu Bah, alias LAJ, whose treatment at a Police detention centre in Freetown, with the forceful shaving of his hair, dreadlocks, and his alleged injection with a chemical generated so many heated discussions on Social Media and other platforms bordering on the violation of his human rights, finally appeared in court at the Magistrate Court No 1 on Pademba Road in Freetown on the 20th June 2022.

He was arraigned before, Magistrate Sahr E. Kekura, on allegations of Robbery with Violence Contrary to Section 23 (1)b of the Larceny Act, 1916 as repealed and replaced by Section 2, Act No. 16 of 1971 and Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm Contrary to Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861.

The particulars of the allegations stated that on Sunday, 12th June 2022 at Leonco Fuel Station on Main Motor Road, Congo Cross in the Freetown Judicial District in the Western Area of the Republic of Sierra Leone, the accused with intent to steal, robbed one Francess Wilson the sum of Two Million and Ninety Thousand Leones and immediately after the robbery he physically assaulted Francess Wilson.

In his defence was a battery of Lawyers led by M.P. Mamie who made an application for bail pursuant to Section 79 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1965.

State Counsel, Y.I. Sesay prosecuted the matter and was vehement in his opposition to the granting of bail on the grounds that offences allegedly committed by the accused were grievous and indeed very serious. He further argued that if bail is granted there is the propensity of the accused person to tamper with the witnesses and could even jump bail.

After listening to both parties, Magistrate Kekura refused bail and the matter adjourned to 22nd June 2022.

Prior to his first court appearance, the Sierra Leone Bar Association stated that it has followed with keen interest the incidents surrounding the arrest of Alhaji Amadu Bah (alias LAJ) and his subsequent detention which took place on 12th June 2022.

The Association said it notes with grave concern the allegations of torture and degrading treatment of Alhaji Amadu Bah and the refusal to allow his family members or his Solicitors to have access to him whilst in Police custody as contained in an open letter dated 17th June 2022, addressed to the Inspector General of Police.

“Such action by the Sierra Leone Police amounts to degrading and serious mistreatment and in blatant violation of Section 20(1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 Act No. 6 of 1991,” it was pointed out.

The SLBA underscored that the said Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) by the Police in the said facility is in stark variance with the provision of Section 20(1) Supra and a flagrant disregard of the several International Treaty Instruments that Sierra Leone has ratified.

It called for the Independent Police Complaints Board to conduct an immediate investigation into all allegations of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of Alhaji Amadu Bah and other detainees relating to his arrest.

The Bar Association also demanded that the Police Council suspends the operation of all SOPs in Police Custody Facilities pending a thorough review of the said SOPs to ensure they are compliant with the provisions of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 1991 and International Treaty Instruments which guarantee rights to humane treatment in detention

It further stated that the retained Solicitors of Alhaji Amadu Bah, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone and Family Members be granted immediate and unconditional access to Alhaji Amadu Bah while in Police Custody Facility.
Finally, Alhaji Amadu Bah MUST be brought before a court of law within ten days from the date of his arrest.

On the very day of his first appearance before a Magistrate, the Fullah Progressive Union (FPU) in a Press Statement issued and signed by the National Secretary-General, Osman Bah, stated that it is concerned over the arrest and mistreatment of Musician Alhaji Amadu Bah aka LAJ and others.

The Union continued that it is calling for the immediate intervention of the Police Council with a view to ensuring prompt and immediate access by family members and the legal representatives to LAJ and all those detained as a result of the case as guaranteed by the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone.
It concluded by saying its members would like to see all related institutions in the matter operate within their legal mandate whilst implementing the Rule of law to the letter and allowing justice to prevail.

In a related development, the Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB) Sierra Leone in a statement, also dated 20th June 2022, signed by, Amadu Femoh Sesay, Communications Officer stated how it is concerned by media reports and press releases from certain institutions that the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) has subjected a suspect, Alhaji Amadu Bah, commonly called LAJ to inhumane treatments and also refused him access to his family and legal team since his arrest on Sunday 12th June 2022.

To that end, the IPCB stated how it has commenced an investigation into the said allegations in pursuance of Section 3 (1) (d & g) of the Independent Police Complaints Board Regulations, 2013, which provides for an investigation into “incidents of injuries, assault or wounding caused by a Police Officer”, and “any matter or incident which it thinks the action or inaction of the police is likely to impact significantly on the confidence of the people in the Police” respectively.

It promised to keep the public informed of developments as and when they do occur.

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