CHRDSL CONDEMNS PUBLIC TRAFFIC RELATED HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE AND CORRUPTION IN THE SIERRA LEONE POLICE (SLP) TRAFFIC DIVISION.
Bribery has permeated the ranks of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) service over the years to the extent that it has become institutionalised. With little strategic and political leadership on the matter, corruption in the force has been left largely unattended.
In a recent research done by the Campaign for Human Rights and Development Sierra Leone (CHRDSL), police sources who spoke to us on conditions of anonymity said that the Traffic Division of the Sierra Leone Police in Freetown are making up to twenty (20) million Leones per week out of the arrest of bike-riders, taxi and mini-bus drivers, and that the illicit money gained from this corrupt enterprise is shared among the Traffic officials.
The CHRDSL research discovered that a large number of commercial bike-riders arrested have their motor-bikes seized and some were never obtained or retrieved. We have information that a total of seven Bikes are currently chained at the Allen Town Police post, 152 registered and unregistered motor Bikes are presently chained at the Central Police Station in capital Freetown, and 211 at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Pademba Road in Freetown. A further 33 at the Congo Cross Police Station, 113 at the Lumley Police Station and approximately 60 chained at the Calaba Town Police Station. Police officers at the Calaba Town Station refused to grant access to our researcher to calculate the exact number of motor bikes that were chained there. All these motor bikes were seized between one to two years ago.
Very few motorist know the legal provisions and others simply want to save the hassle of following up on the case in court. When corrupt officials connive with motorists and motor bike riders who speed drive/ride without licence and are with vehicles or motor bikes that are not road worthy, the consequences for other road users are possibly disastrous. According to our research, from the 1st June 2014 to the 30 November 2015, a total of 226 Taxi and Mini-Bus (Poda-poda) drivers were arrested but only 103 were charged to court and fined. The remaining 123 were not charged to court and it was unclear whether they were released at the various Police Stations or on their way to court.
121 files were received by the court(s) from the Traffic Division but there were no suspect for these files and there were no evidence provided to substantiate whether they were fined by the Police. There was no evidence to justify what actually happened to those who were not charged.
In June 2014, 17 commercial drivers were arrested, 10 in July, August 29, September 6, October 20, November 19 and 16 in December. In January 2015, 7 were arrested, February 3, March 14, April 9, May 5, June 12, July 13, August 6, September 8, November 21 and December 11.
The report further reveals that 3,189 motorbike-rider were arrested, however only 2,916 were charged to court within the period of June 2014 to November 2014. All those who were charged to court were those who refused to pay bribes to the traffic officer(s).
It was reported to us that citizens who refuse to pay bribes are punished by law enforcement officials by brutal arrests, beatings and violent acts such as smashing windscreens when they resist unfair arrests.
It was discovered that a huge number of arrested riders were often released after paying fines to the Police, fines which they were actually supposed to pay in court.
Police accountability continues to remain weak despite several capacity training opportunities offered to them by their national/international development partners.
In view of all of the above, Campaign for Human Rights and Development Sierra Leone (CHRDSL) is calling on the concerned authorities (Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Independent Police Complaints Board, Sierra Leone Police Management and Anti-Corruption Commission) to immediately conduct a fully transparent and impartial investigation into this lawless and corrupt behaviour of traffic officials in the Sierra Leone Police.
We at CHRDSL, condemn unnecessary arrest or arbitrary use of force, harassment of innocent drivers or motorbike-riders and will not rest until all policing in Sierra Leone respects human rights. As long as there is no respect for rule of the laws of the road, the road will be an unsafe place.
Note: Campaign for Human Rights and Development Sierra Leone (CHRDSL) is a Rights based social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights. CHRDSL is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies.
Abdul M Fatoma
©HUMAN RIGHTS BRIEF