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One year on: Amnesty International Calls for Accountability for victims of violent August 10 Protest

Amnesty International has in a press statement called on Sierra Leonean authorities to prioritize truth, justice, and reparations for the victims of the August 10 2022 protests, which turned violent. On the first anniversary of the burial of protesters and bystanders killed during the demonstrations, Amnesty International in their press statement highlighted the urgent need for accountability.

According to Amnesty International, during the violent protests on August 10, 2022, more than 20 protesters and bystanders lost their lives, along with six police officers. These protests were prompted by mounting frustrations over the escalating cost of living. In March of this year, a Special Investigation Committee established by the government released its findings.

Although the report recommended training police officers to avoid excessive use of force, Amnesty noticed that the findings fell short of calling for an investigation into the allegations of such force during the protests. To date, none of the civilian deaths have been adequately investigated.

According to eyewitness testimonies mentioned in the press statement d, security forces employed excessive force in suppressing the protests. Samira Daoud Director of Amnesty International's West and Central Africa office said"Over a year has passed, yet the pain endured by the families of the victims remains as raw as it was in the aftermath of the killings. We that Sierra Leonean authorities have failed to fulfill their promise of conducting a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation, and providing justice and truth to the families of the victims,"

Daoud further emphasized the necessity for a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding each person's death, including allegations of security forces using disproportionate violence. This investigation he noted should include all victims' families, including those of the police officers killed during the protests.

The victims of the protests, both protesters and bystanders, were collectively buried on October 17, 2022. Regrettably, their families were denied the opportunity to properly identify their loved ones or bid them farewell in accordance with their cultural practices and wishes. One brother of a victim shared his experience with Amnesty International, recounted how he felt stigmatized and isolated due to the tragic circumstances surrounding his sister's death.

In the press statement another grieving father expressed his family's ongoing hardship following the loss of his daughter. The responsibility for her education, previously shouldered by the daughter, now weighs on his shoulders as a retired military member. He described engaging in charcoal production as a means of survival.

Furthermore, Amnesty International clearly made it clear that neither of the men interviewed by them had been consulted during the Special Committee's investigation. While clinging to hope for eventual justice, they emphasized the importance of holding those responsible accountable.

A total of 515 individuals were arrested and prosecuted for various offenses, ranging from malicious damage and arson to unlawful procession, riotous conduct, seditious behavior, and even murder. Testimonies gathered by Amnesty International revealed that some detainees were unable to consult with their lawyers until their trials, and their convictions were based solely on the testimony of arresting officers without any additional corroborating evidence. Some of these individuals have already served their sentences, while others remain incarcerated.

Samira Daoud from Amnesty International urged authorities to safeguard the right to peaceful assembly and ensure that the policing of protests adheres to national and international human rights standards.


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