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NOTICES & DOCUMENTS  

WSSG Briefing: Use of violence against women during political clash in Freetown, 16 March 2009
By Women's Solidarity Support Group (WSSG)
Apr 16, 2009, 18:32
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Women's Solidarity Support Group (WSSG) Briefing: The use of violence against women during political clash in Freetown, 16 March 2009

 

BACKGROUND:

On 16 March 2009 during political clashes in Freetown between the SLPP and APC alleged rape and physical assault took place against nine women. Members of the non-party political WSSG visited the women in hospital immediately after the alleged incident to ensure necessary medical assistance was provided. They are able to provide extremely shocking testimonies of what occurred. They received individual testimonies from the victims who themselves were still in a state of shock.  Subsequently the WSSG has provided legal and logistical support to the women. The WSSGs main priority remains to ensure that due process is followed in pursuit of justice that the relevant authorities vigorously pursue the investigation and collection of evidence and legal action is taken if justified by the evidence.

 

It is the view of the WSSG that there has been a disturbing failure of the authorities in this instance to prevent the abuses and to instill confidence in their willingness to follow due process in pursuing justice.

 

This view is substantiated by the findings of the Report of Civil Society fact finding on the incidences of political violence in Freetown (April 2009) which was commissioned by 50 networks of civil society organizations.  It is further reinforced by the interview of the Inspector General (IG) of the Sierra Leone Police Force on Radio Democracy 98.1 FM on 7 April 2009 subsequent to the press briefing held by the IG on 6 April 2009. 

 

On 2 April 2009 the APC and SLPP issued a Joint Communiqu. Point 3 of the Communiqu recommends to the President the establishment of an Independent Enquiry to investigate all allegations of rape and sexual violence against women on 16th March and to bring to justice anyone who has committed sexual violence. Both parties request the UN to provide technical assistance to the Enquiry process. The WSSG is encouraged that the political party Communiqu places the sexual violence issue in a prominent position of concern for the political parties.

 

CURRENT STATUS OF INVESTIGATION:

The Inspector General of Police, Mr Brima Acha Kamara, publically dismissed the alleged rapes, stating that there was no evidence to support the claims. He said that the medical report showed no evidence of rape, that no witnesses had come forward and that the alleged perpetrators could not be identified.

 

The head of the Family Support Unit, Ms Aiesha Bangura, has indicated that the case file in a progress report has been forwarded to the Attorney Generals office for advice about how to proceed and that the case is not closed. 

 

There are clear protocols for handling rape investigations, such as the National Protocol for Sexual Assault (US Dept. of Justice). They all emphasise the paramount importance of providing competent and compassionate care for alleged victims and conducting an investigation in a sensitive, dignified and victim centered manner. The IGs comments have been both derogatory and dismissive in tone, with inappropriate content on such a sensitive issue.  

 

The WSSG encourages the FSU to vigorously pursue the evidence that exists and to ensure intelligence gathered in the number of investigations that are ongoing is shared for the benefit of the sexual assault case.

 

Furthermore, the WSSG has clearly established that:

         the victims rushed to report the alleged abuses to the police in the immediate vicinity

         medical reports are highly confidential and the content should not be shared with members of the public or the media

         medical reports only state the findings of an examination and do not state whether rape happened or not, it is the courts who determine this

         despite one of the victims stating they were able to identify the perpetrator no identity parade/line up was held by the police and,

         members of the WSSG have first person testimony which they reported to the police but there have been no subsequent interviews held

 

RELEVANT COMMITMENTS BY THE SL GOVERNMENT:

The violence follows numerous national commitments made by this and the last Government to end violence against women. The Government of Sierra Leone has ratified most of the international conventions protecting women, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Report made recommendations towards an end to violence against women.

 

Recent events potentially represent a major set back against these advances. We recognize that the Government has put in place laws and policies to prevent these abuses. Now is the time to prove that they will be enforced. The unfortunate politicized nature of the current situation makes fair and transparent enforcement even more of an imperative.

 

ACTION REQUEST:

We therefore request support and sustained engagement from well meaning Sierra Leoneans and the international representatives in Sierra Leone in advocating for:

  • An independent investigation of the alleged crime and assurance that any criminals found responsible for these violent acts are brought to justice. In the light of the Joint Communiqu between the APC and SLPP (2 April 2009) we specifically request support for:

        The implementation of point 3 of the Joint Communiqu which recommends the establishment of an Independent Enquiry to investigate all allegations of rape and sexual violence against women on 16th March.

        Support the Communiqus request to the UN for technical assistance to the Enquiry process.

        Promote effective monitoring of the commitments in the Communiqu as outlined in para 12, including ensuring civil society is represented in the monitoring process.

  • Subsequent legal process is pursued without let or hindrance.

The President has championed the cause of Sierra Leones women. We expect that he too will forcefully condemn these abuses against women and respond positively to the Communiqus request that he approve an Independent Enquiry.

 

There can be no peace if women are not safe. There can be no development when women continue to live in fear. We call on the women and men of Sierra Leone to join together to end the culture of impunity. By condoning violence particularly sexual violence we are undermining the rule of law that we have worked hard to build.  We call on well-meaning Sierra Leoneans and the international community to support the efforts of civil society to ensure a just outcome.

 

WSSG MEMBERS:

Womens Forum

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone

The Talking Drum Studio

ENCISS

International Rescue Committee

Campaign for Good Governance

Bambara Town Womens Association

Forut Sierra Leone

Centre for the Coordination of Youth Activities

WIMSAL

International Alert

SLADEA

FAWE

50/50 Group

GEMS

YWCA

MARWOPNET

Action Aid Sierra Leone

Network Movement for Justice and Development

Sierra Leone Teachers Union

National Forum for Human Rights

Amnesty International

AWAA-SL

Alliance for Female Journalists

Center for Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health Education


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