By Feima Sesay
Former Aviation , transport and Works Minister in the last All People’s Congress Party (APC) led government , Alhaji Kemoh Sesay has been denied bail and sent to jail yesterday by a magistrate court in Freetown .
The court, presided over by Magistrate Sahr Kekura of Pademba Road court No 1 alleged that ‘’Cyber Stalking and Bulling’’ Against President Bio are acts of crime.
The accused, Alhaji Kemoh Sesay was making his first appearance in court on one count charge of what the court described as ‘’cyber stalking and bulling contrary to section 44(2(b) of the cyber security and crime act 2021. ‘’
The court said that the accused, sometime in March and April 2022 via social media, on WhatsApp platform, in Port Loko district, in the Bakelo chiefdom , northern Sierra Leone ‘’wilfully and repeatedly’’ communicated directly to the president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio in what it said was done in a way that he knows to be ‘’ false, for the purpose of causing danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to Retired Brigadier Dr. Julius Maada Bio or cause such message to be sent.’’ The statement of the offence said.
However, the former minister pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The Lead defense lawyer, Lansana Dumbuya objected to the charge on the grounds that as indicated on the face of the information, the accused is charge with section 44(2) sub section 2 b. He argued that the particulars of offence, says that the accused sometime between March and April 2022 through social media via WhatsApp, ‘’ willfully and repeatedly communicated directly to the president.
According to him, what was reflected in the particulars of offence is not supported by statement of offence and that even the offence as listed in the information was wrong.
He said there was no such offence under the cyber security crime act No2 of 2021 and that what was reflected in the charge sheet was different from what is in the act.
He said that there is nothing in the act that talks about cyber bulling; hence, the charge was wrong.
He asked the court to dismiss the charge; noting that such charge does not exists. “No matter what we do here we will be beating a dead horse”, he said.
The prosecutor, ASP Davis Cole in reply said she could not response now to the application and that she did not have the authority hence; in the circumstances, requested for a date, citing that no authority was served on her by defense team as at yet.
Lawyer Melron Nicole Wilson however applied for bail on behalf of the accused on the grounds that the accused is before the court on a wrong charge.
He said the accused is a very senior citizen of Sierra Leone having served as a minister in very respectable ministries under the last government.
He said the accused had a strong community ties and a senior member of the APC, adding that he is chairman for a bye election that will be conducted in the pot Loko district very soon.
He added that the accused will not in any way jump bail or interfere with prosecution witnesses, noting that the accused has a slight disability issue and requires assistant in other to be able to move from one place to another.
He referred the court to the provision of regulation 7 of the bail regulation of 2018 which deals with the issue of disability in terms of bail. He further urged the bench to take judicial notice of how the accused was brought to court. He added that even though the charge is very serious as it has to do with the first gentle man of the country but said he is prepared to stand as surety for the accused to show how credible he is.
I therefore crave your indulgence to use the provision of the law and grant bail to a man who is before the court on a wrong charge”, he said.
Prosecutor in reply said even though there is no application in opposition to bail by her, she insisted that but; the alleged offence is against the first gentle man of the country.
She argued that the offences has to do with an audio and a repeatative one ; noting that the offence is against the state that has to do with cyber crime, adding that irrespective of the accused’s health condition.
She pleaded with the court to discountenance the bail application made by defense team . The state prosecutor, in this case is Assistant Superintendent of Police Christiana Davis Cole.
The Defense lawyers were; Melron C. Nicole Wilson, Lansana Dumbuya, AA. Bah, L .J Kamara, A. Dumbuya, F I Kamara, F Robin Taylor, M.F Sesay, A .H Sesay and S Bangura.
Magistrate Sahr Kekura refused the accused bail citing what he said the serious nature of the offence charged.
The case comes up again on Monday 9th May 2022.
For discriminatory loitering laws…
Human Rights Group Sues S/Leone At Ecowas Court
Avocado a human rights group has litigated the state of Sierra Leone for continuously keeping discriminatory loitering laws in the country`s statute books.
In that regard, Advocaid has filed a case at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria, against the Government of Sierra Leone, seeking to overturn the country’s discriminatory loitering laws.
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and Sierra Leonean lawyer, Eleanor Thompson, are legal representatives of the Plaintiff. Loitering is a petty offence that is defined in the Public Order Act of 1964 and the Summary Conviction Offences Ordinance of 1906.
For example, section 7 of the Public Order Act provides that “Any person loitering in or about any stable house or building, or under any piazza, or in the open air, and not having any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself, shall be deemed an idle and disorderly person, and shall, on conviction thereof, be liable to imprisonment for any period, not exceeding one month”. In the case filed on 21 April 2022, the Plaintiff alleges that these laws and their application unfairly target the poor and most vulnerable members of society and subject them to criminal sanctions for potential, rather than actual, harmful acts. Loitering laws are enforced in a discriminatory manner and frequently result in arbitrary and unlawful arrests targeting the poor and marginalized groups in society, particularly those who work in the informal economy. Simply the act of being in a place and not giving a “good account of himself/herself” or “satisfactory account of himself/herself” (as subjectively judged by a police officer) provides a basis for an arrest. The case also alleges that in many cases of women who do not have money when arrested, the police officers demand for sexual intercourse before the women can be released. In some instances, police officers forcefully have sex with these women against their will, and in many cases without using any protection. Those women who do not give the police their demands are charged to court, while those that can satisfy the demands are released without charge. The case alleges that these laws violate various provisions under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to which Sierra Leone is a party, such as the right to equality and non-discrimination and the right to freedom of movement. “Loitering laws in Sierra Leone are largely unfair to the poor and underprivileged in our societies.…This case is about justice for the common people in Sierra Leone”, AdvocAid Legal Manager, Juliet Mamawa Kaikai, remarked following the filing of the case. The Plaintiff requests the Court to order Sierra Leone to repeal its loitering laws and to conduct human rights training for law enforcement officers, among others. For Further Information: AdvocAid is a civil society organisation in Sierra Leone that has provided access to justice for girls and women in contact with the law for over 15 years. Contact – Eleanor Thompson, lawyer representing AdvocAid.
IHRDA is a pan–African non-governmental organisation working to promote awareness of human rights in Africa and improve the effectiveness of the African Human Rights system. Contact – Oludayo Fagbemi, Senior Legal Officer – To learn more about the application of petty offences in Sierra Leone, check out the resources produced by AdvocAid and CARL. The Campaign to Decriminalise Petty Offences has more information and resources from across the continent.
Satellite day opens…
Parliament Resolves to Ensure Public Accessibility
By Feima Sesay
The parliament of Sierra Leone on Thursday 5th May, 2022 held a satellite open day of Parliament in which it targeted the country’s three regions.
Officially launching the satellite open day, deputy speaker of Parliament, Hon Segepoh Solomon Thomas welcomed the attendees to the second edition of the parliamentary review of one day event.
He said this year’s event theme is to bring citizens close to parliament, and that the overall objective for this event is to showcase the Parliament of Sierra Leone and make it open and accessible to the public so that citizens can have a better understanding of what constitutes their core mandate and activities as a legislative body.
He pointed out that, their resolve to have this event is a call on their commitment to enhance public understanding of parliamentary work, create awareness and increase the visibility of the Parliament of Sierra Leone and promote the enabling environment for strategic engagements with its stakeholders which include development partners, civil society organizations, academic institutions, and citizens in general.
He said promoting parliamentary openness so that citizens can have access to more information to better place them to understand and participate in the legislative process is a critical rationale for the event in a bill to have a plus in relationship between parliament and other legislative actors.
He noted that they have decided to open up the space for better interaction and collaboration through this open debate, so that they demonstrate their commitment to enhance external participation in making Parliament more responsive to the needs and aspirations of citizens as a responsive event that is in tune with expectations of the public they want to promote a culture of openness and make parliamentary information transparent and easy to access.
Hon Thomas further informed the audience that Parliament is committed to implementing accountability mechanisms as instruments for evaluating public opinion and policies and implementation of their parliamentary agenda.
According to Hon Thomas, in a way to strengthen the democratic accountability of the Parliament of Sierra Leone is important the citizens access to parliamentary information which can help shift public petitions of the institution. He noted that Citizens’ trust in parliament is critical to the functioning of the country’s democracy and the promotion of effective governance.
He stated that as a parliament, they have not lost sight of the fact that the demand in more openness of governance institutions, more civic participation and ways to increase transparency, responsiveness, accountability and effectiveness is high and they as a parliament will do all in their power to doing more.
Hon Thomas said that the international community is also recognizing that inclusive governance structures intrinsically linked to our ability to achieve sustainable development, this he said reflected in the 2030 agenda, specifically on sustainable development goal.
Other speakers who made meaningful contribution during the programme including the deputy Minister of information and commutation, Solomon Jamiru Esq, deputy leader of government business Hon Basiru Silikie, Hon Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, representatives from the European union, UNDP, Madam Fraser among others. They spoke of the role of parliament which includes law making, representation and to also hold the government accountable to the people. After the official opening, a tour was conducted round the different department of parliament by the leadership of Parliament and the invited dignitaries.