The security forces killed one person and seriously injured at least two others as they opened fire on protesting students in the city of Bo today, Amnesty International said.
“This bloodshed and loss of young life is a tragedy and suggests a heavy handed response by the security forces to a student protest,” said Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International West Africa researcher.
“We urge the police to refrain from committing human rights violations and instead allow the students to safely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
“The authorities must conduct an independent investigation to shed light on the circumstances of this killing and all injuries and, if there is sufficient evidence, ensure accountability through fair trials.”
Sierra Leone must lift a deeply discriminatory ban on visibly pregnant girls attending school and taking exams, which continues to entrench gender inequality in the country and puts thousands of teenage girls’ futures at risk, Amnesty International said today, a year on from its report on the issue.
“The prohibition on visibly pregnant girls attending mainstream schools and taking exams is hopelessly misguided, and is doing nothing to address the root causes of Sierra Leone’s high teenage pregnancy rate, which surged during the devastating Ebola crisis, and remains high despite this ban,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
(Dakar, February 4, 2016) – Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, should sign into law a bill that would increase women’s access to safe and legal abortion, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today in a letter they and five Sierra Leonean rights groups 50/50, AdvocAid, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, IPAS Sierra Leone, and Wi Di Uman Dem Coalition sent to President Koroma.
In December 2015, the Sierra Leonean parliament overwhelmingly passed the Safe Abortion Act 2015, which would permit access to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, after which it would be permitted until week 24 in cases of rape, incest, or health risk to the fetus or the woman or girl. Sierra Leone’s current law, which dates from 1861, criminalizes abortion, possibly except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
Released 6 November 9.30am GMT 2015Right to education of thousands of girls still under threat post Ebola crisis No action to prevent humiliating physical examinations of schoolgirls in schools Failure to provide sex education, information and services including post rape health care
Thousands of pregnant girls, excluded from mainstream schools and barred from sitting upcoming exams, risk being left behind as Sierra Leone moves forward from the Ebola crisis, Amnesty International said in a report published today.
The report, Shamed and blamed: Pregnant girls’ rights at risk in Sierra Leone, reveals how the prohibition, confirmed by the government in April this year and sometimes enforced through humiliating physical checks, not only stigmatizes an estimated 10,000 girls but risks destroying their future life opportunities. With exams scheduled for 23 November, Amnesty International is calling on authorities to immediately lift the ban.
By Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty’s West Africa Researcher.
Ebola has affected every area of life in Sierra Leone, and made it even more challenging for pregnant women to get the care they desperately need. Activist Fatou Wurie talks about her personal experiences of maternal health care there.
I want to tell you about a young girl I met two years ago. I walked into a community health centre expecting to meet 50 traditional birth attendants for a training seminar. Instead, I walked into a labour ward and saw a placenta discarded on the floor. A young mother was bleeding and in tears, and her new-born baby boy was fighting against the odds to live.
The midwives in their neon pink uniforms asked me to help clean the mother up while they resuscitated the baby. I didn’t ask questions, but mechanically helped the mother clean up and calm down. The new-born was still not breathing, his airway was blocked and the small health centre did not have the equipment they needed to save his life.
Sierra Leone must immediately release, or facilitate a review by a judicial authority, 8 people detained for over three months without charge following a riot related to the Ebola outbreak, Amnesty International said today.
2 women and 6 men are detained in the capital’s maximum security prisons following their arrest last October in the Eastern region of Kono. These people are among 34 people detained after an Executive Order was issued by President Ernest Bai Koroma using his powers under the State of Emergency. 26 were later released while 8 continued to be arbitrarily detained. The detainees have no warrants or documentation supporting their detention or any release date.
Their arrests are related to a riot that occurred in Kono over a contested suspected Ebola patient who was the 90 year old grandmother of a local politician. Her family was accused of preventing health authorities to take her for an Ebola test. At least two people were shot dead during the riot, with witnesses describing how police used live rounds to disperse the crowd.
By Dr. Shobana Ananth, Health Network Coordinator and Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner
The Ebola epidemic is spreading rapidly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and threatens to spread further. Over 13,000 cases have been reported in eight countries this year, and almost 5,000 people have died. Current projections suggest there could be 10,000 cases—and 5,000 deaths—per week by December.
Health systems in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were already weak from years of armed conflict. They suffer from shortages in funding, staff, a lack of health care workers, and poor infrastructure. And now they are collapsing under the strain of responding to the Ebola virus. Without financial support and increased humanitarian and medical staff, the epidemic will continue to expand and many more lives will be lost.
By Solomon Sogbandi, Director of Amnesty International Sierra Leone.
Since the first cases of Ebola were reported in March, life in Sierra Leone has changed beyond recognition.
So far, the World Health Organization has confirmed more than 5,200 Ebola cases in Sierra Leone alone and more than 13,700 across the world. More than 4,500 people have died of the disease – 1,500 in my home country.
Friends abroad often ask me what life is like here at the moment.
I can only describe it as horrifying.
Every morning, I wake up in my house in Freetown with the sound of the terrifying pictures and stories coming out of the TV and the radio. People are desperately trying, and in many cases failing, to get medical help that would make the difference between life and death. Doctors and nurses are at breaking point. Entire communities are quarantined, lacking access to sufficient food and water.
The Sierra Leone parliament’s passage of a freedom of information law is a major step to ensure greater government transparency, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Sierra Leone’s Freedom of Information Coalition said today. The new legislation, enacted today, is crucial for effective, transparent, and accountable governance.
The Right to Access Information Act establishes a right to access government information and requires all parts of government to adopt and widely disseminate a plan for making records publicly available. The legislation also imposes a penalty for willful obstruction of its provisions.
The law was first proposed in 2003 but has languished in Sierra Leone’s parliament since 2010. President Ernest Bai Koroma must now sign the act for it to enter into force.
The Sierra Leonean authorities must drop all charges against editors for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.
On Wednesday, Jonathan Leigh and Bai Bai Sesay, both editors at the Independent Observer newspaper, were charged with criminal defamation for publishing an article critical of the Sierra Leonean President, Ernest Bai Koroma. They have already been in detention for six days and have been denied bail pending the resumption of their trial on 29 October.
“Criminal defamation charges against media workers highlight the incredibly worrying climate for freedom of expression in the West African country,” said Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Sierra Leone.
“All charges must be dropped and these two men released immediately and unconditionally. Their detention and criminal charges appear to stem from them peacefully carrying out journalistic work.
“The Sierra Leonean authorities must respect the right to freedom of expression. Legitimate criticism of public officials should never be grounds for curtailing free speech.”