Limba in the Disapora Concerned over the Arrest and Detention of Alfred Paolo Conteh
PRESS RELEASE BY THE LIMBAS IN THE DIASPORA ON THE ARREST AND DETENTION OF MAJOR (RETIRED) ALFRED PAOLO CONTEH
The Limbas in the diaspora havelearnt that the government of President Julius Maada Bio has arrested and detained Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh, on allegation of conspiracy to commit treason, unlawful possession of arms and ammunition and other criminal charges.
We have been reliably informed that:
- President Bio had invited Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh to State House together with few other individuals that were at the helm in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016. And that, Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh and the other invitees were to go and share their expertise toward the Government of Sierra Leone’s preparedness against the Corona Virus pandemic.
- Senior executive members of the APC Party duly authorised and approved of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh’s attendance to President Bio’s call for a bi-partisan engagement on the fight against the COVID-19 in Sierra Leone.
- On arriving at State House on the 19th March 2020, Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh voluntarily handed over his bag containing his own licensed gun to the security there before proceeding to the office of the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP) for his eventual presentation meeting with President Bio and others concerned. The mode and timing of the voluntary handing over of the weapon is now the main dispute that has led to criminal charges.The State prosecution must provide CCTV footage of what transpired between Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh and the security at State House on this matter. WE SHALL CONSIDER ANYTHING SHORT OF THIS UNACCEPTABLE!!!
- The matter has now led to one Colonel (Retired) Saa Sinnah and one gentleman named Mr. Prince George Hughes, both being staff members of the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, being charged for alleged unlawful licensing of the said gun that was in the possession of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh.
- Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh is detained at the Pademba Road prison on 24 hours solitary confinement, under egregious conditions with very limited access by his lawyers and a single visit by his wife, even before criminal charges against him had been proffered and still continuing even after the court had ordered for all the human rights of the detained prisoner to be upheld.
- The preliminary investigations on 3rd April 2020 at the Pademba Road magistrate court, was restricted to selected legal and media practitioners and civil society organisations, thus denying family members and well-wishers to witness the initial proceedings.
If the facts in 1 - 6 above are true, then, we would to like remind President Bio thus:
- Section 20(1) of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone provides for protection from inhumane treatment. We therefore urge the government to respect Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh’s right to dignity and humane treatment while in detention.
- An accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by virtue of section 23 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. We therefore urge the Director of Public Prosecution to provide the evidence supporting their chargesand hasten the trial. Since the government believes that Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh has a case to answer, we implore your expedient fair trial - for justice delayed is justice denied. Otherwise, we request the immediate release of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh from detention.
- Sierra Leone The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report is replete with accounts of how some members of the Limba ethnic group were falsely accused and extra-judicially executed. We are concerned about the preliminary investigations at the magistrate court and reports relating to the nefarious conditions on Paolo Conteh’s solitary confinement. We hope President Bio upholds his promise for national cohesion by ensuring thatmembers of the ethnic groups in Sierra Leone continue to peacefully live side by side in our nation’s rebirth with no suspicion by any one group that its members are vulnerable.
- We also call on President Bio to engage and work amicably with the APC Party National Executive for a swift trial and/or release of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh. Such a step will be in furtherance of national cohesion especially as Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh had received blessings of his APC party to go to State House and work with the President Bio-led government.
As we look forward to President’s Bio judicious action in the best interest of national cohesion, we would like him to know that this is a matter that we are following very closely.
Should anything untoward happens to Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh, we will not stop at anything to seek redress. We shall use the case of Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh and the plethora of available evidence about human rights violations since Julius Maada Bio became president of the Republic of Sierra Leone to substantiate the fact that the statements in the TRC report President Julius Maada Bio and other members of his current government are cited to have made regarding the executions and associated violations of December 1992 were misleading; hence, the need for proper investigation by the International Criminal Court.
We shall undertake international legal campaign, rather than resort to internal skirmish, if justice is not seen to have been done speedily enough. If by the 10th April 2020, the preliminary investigations at the magistrate court on the treasons allegations against Major (Retired) Alfred Paolo Conteh do not go ahead or have him released, we shall commence a two-pronged approach thus: inform the moral guarantors to our national peace and sustain the services of international lawyers in the International Criminal Court to start the process leading to the indictment of President Julius Maada Bio and top officials in his government.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!
Long live the Limba ethnic group!!!
Long live Sierra Leone!!!