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Breastfeeding mother and Five other Women Detained in Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission is still working on the final results of the Parliamentary and Local Council elections; we anticipate a very low success rate for women in these elections, even though women played critical roles and even suffered consequences in these processes.

A consortium of activists groups in Sierra Leone have been fighting, several days after the elections, for the release of six women who were accused of “electoral malpractice” in the November 17, 2012 election. Among the women, is a breastfeeding mother of twins who has not been able to feed her 17 months old babies since the arrest.

Photo credit: Otto Bakano/IRIN

This is not only an inhumane act but a constitutionally unlawful act, as the group points out in their press release.

This happens too often in Sierra Leone where, mostly women, are thrown in prison for indefinite periods for simply being accused of a crime; many are being treated in this manner in cases of owing debts and other minor offenses.

The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a tenet of the Sierra Leone Constitution; however, corruption in the justice system has rendered it useless, particularly in the case of women. Most often, detained women are at the mercy of male prison officials, they suffer anywhere from sex in exchange of release to out right rape.

Of course, IF these women have committed these crimes, they must be punished; but first, they must be accorded due process and their stay in prison for alleged crimes is definitely not due process.

This is an outrage that must be decried by ALL!

Read press release excerpt below.

Urgent Press Release: UNCONSTITUTIONAL DETENTION OF ALLEGED ELECTORAL MALPRACTICE SUSPECTS BY SIERRA LEONE POLICE

We, the following civil society organisations, AdvocAid, Amnesty International, Centre for Accountability & Rule of Law (CARL), L.A.W.Y.E.RS (Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights & Social justice), and Prison Watch, strongly condemn the action of the Sierra Leone Police in detaining alleged election malpractice suspects beyond the 72 hours constitutional time limit prescribed in section 17(3) of the 1991 Constitution.

In particular, we would like to highlight the plight of 6 female suspects currently detained at the Criminal Investigation Department from about 1700 hours on Saturday 17th November 2012. Five of the female suspects were employed by NEC in various roles during the conduct of the elections. Of serious concern is the wellbeing of one of the detainees, who is a suckling mother of 17 month old twins. She has been denied access to her children since her arrest, which is a serious breach of the United Nations Minimum Standards on Detention of Female prisoners (known as the Bangkok Rules).

The Constitution provides that all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that they must be brought speedily before a competent authority to adjudicate on their guilt or innocence should the Sierra Leone Police believe they have sufficient evidence to charge their matters to court.

We, therefore, call on the Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice to immediately bring them before a competent court of law or release them on bail.

We are also calling on the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, to speedily announce the results of the elections as all Law Enforcement and Security personnel are declining to comply with the rule of law and constitutional provisions due to the uncertainty being created by the delay in results being announced.

Finally, we are also calling on the international community to take note of these breaches of fundamental human rights during and after the electioneering period.

Signed

AdvocAid, Head Office: 39 Liverpool Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone, advocaid@gmail.com/+232 33 572 526 / www.advocaidsl.com

Amnesty International, Freetown Centre for Accountability & Rule of Law (CARL), 7 Percival Street,(3rd Floor), Freetown

L.A.W.Y.E.RS (Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights & Social justice), Head Office: 11 Percival Street, Freetown. Tel: 076 820291

Prison Watch, Mends Street, Freetown

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