News from Africa

Sierra Leone: Police officers who went on rampage through town and shot at protestors must be held to account

Human Rights

Té / 19 September 2012

The perpetrators of a three day police rampage through the Sierra Leonean mining town of Bumbuna, during which a woman was shot dead, at least 11 people were injured and homes and businesses were destroyed must be held to account, Amnesty International said today.

A demonstration over working conditions and pay by employees at the local iron-ore mining company African Minerals Limited (AML) on 16 April 2012 descended into chaos over the next two days when police fired live ammunition at unarmed community members and used tear gas to dispel crowds.

“This irresponsible and abusive action by the Sierra Leonean police demonstrates a terrifying disregard for the rights, and lives, of the people they are duty bound to protect,” said Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, Amnesty International’s Sierra Leone researcher.

“A peaceful demonstration by mine workers ended in violence after police use arbitrary and excessive force. This failure of professional policing raises significant questions about the police’s ability to maintain order and respect human rights in what could prove to be tense elections in the coming months.”

While Amnesty International welcomes the public inquiry into the events of April 16 to 18 in Bumbuna, which is being conducted by Sierra Leone’s National Human Rights Commission, it calls on the government to initiate a criminal investigation to ensure those found responsible - including those with command responsibility - are held to account.

On 16 April 2012 employees at the AML mine in Bumbuna called a public demonstration and gathered outside the courthouse – a common gathering place for the community. Local police confirmed to Amnesty International that the demonstration was peaceful, but nonetheless they called in reinforcements from several other cities, including Freetown.

At around 1pm on 17 April the police entered the main marketplace in Bumbuna – approximately quarter of a mile away from the protesting mine employees – and fired tear gas and live ammunition into the air.

LONDON, United-Kingdom, September 19, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/

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