According to Section 16(1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone:
No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Sierra Leone, of which he has been convicted.
Section 16(2) goes on to state that:
... a person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section if he dies as a result of the use of force to such extent as is reasonably justifiable in the circumstances of the case. That is to say –
(a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property; or
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny; or
(d) in order to prevent the commission by that person of a criminal offence; or
(e) if he dies as a result of a lawful act of war.
According to Section 20(1), no one "shall be subject to any form of torture or any punishment or other treatment which is inhuman or degrading".
Section 26(1) of the 1991 Constitution provides that
Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly ...
(2) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision
a. which is reasonably required—
i. in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, or provision for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community; or
ii. for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons; or
b. which imposes restrictions upon public officers and upon members of a defence force; or
c. which imposes restrictions on the establishment of political parties, or regulates the organisation, registration, and functioning of political parties and the conduct of its members;
and except in so far as that provision, or as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
The Constitution also established the Police Force of Sierra Leone, "the Head of which shall be the Inspector-General of Police".S. 155(1), 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.It does not, though, regulate the use of force by the Sierra Leone Police Force beyond the provision in Section 16(2) cited above.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Signatory|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
|1998 Protocol to the African Charter on the African Court||State Party|
|Article 34(6) declaration regarding individual petitions||No|
|Malabo Protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights||Signatory|
Police Use of Force
Section 4 of the 1965 Criminal Procedure Act sets out the power to use force to arrest a criminal suspect:
(1) In making an arrest the constable or other person making the same shall actually touch or confine the body of the same person to be arrested, unless there be a submission to the custody by word or action.
(2) If such person forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or attempts to evade the arrest, such constable or other person may use sufficient force to effect the arrest but not more.
(3) Nothing in this section gives a right to cause the death of any person except when a constable or private person is legally attempting to arrest the person killed, upon a charge or treason, felony or inflicting a dangerous wound and the arrest of such person cannot otherwise be accomplished.
(4) If a constable is assaulted or obstructed when making any arrest, it shall be the duty of any private person, on whom he may call for aid, to go to his assistance.
Sierra Leone also has regulations relating to the use of force in the 2001 Police (Discipline) Regulations, which make it a disciplinary offence to use "unnecessary violence to, or ill-using [sic] any person in custody" and discharging "any firearm without just cause".Second Schedule, 2001 Police (Discipline) Regulations.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
Section 16 of the 2014 Sierra Leone Correctional Service Act governs the use of force in custodial settings.
(1) A corrections officer may use such force against an inmate as is reasonably necessary in order to make the inmate obey lawful orders.
(2) Subject to this section, a corrections officer may use a weapon against–
(a) an inmate who is-–
(i) escaping or attempting to escape and refuses when called upon to return;
(ii) engaged in a combined outbreak or in an attempt to force, break open or scale the outside door, gate, fence or enclosure wall of a correctional centre; or
(iii) using violence on him or another corrections officer or another inmate or other person; and
(b) a person who –
(i) whilst assisting an inmate to escape, uses violence against the corrections officer or another corrections officer or other person; or
(ii) is engaged in a combined break-in or in an attempt to force, break open or scale the outside door, gate, fence or enclosure wall of a correctional centre or an inside door, gate, fence or wall of the correctional centre; or
(iii) whilst engaged in any activity mentioned in subparagraph (ii), is using violence against the corrections officer or another corrections officer or other person.
(3) Resort shall not be had to the use of a weapon
(a) ... unless
(i) the corrections officer has reasonable grounds to believe that he cannot otherwise prevent the escape; and
(ii) the corrections officer gives warning to the inmate that the corrections officer is about to use the weapon against him; and
(iii) the warning given by the corrections officer is unheeded; [or]
(b) ... unless
i) the corrections officer has reasonable grounds to believe that he or another corrections officer or other person, as the case may be, is in danger of suffering grievous bodily harm
(ii) the inmate is engaged with other persons in breaking out or attempting to break out of any part of a correctional centre and when called upon to desist continues to break out or attempt to break out;
(iii) the inmate is engaged with others in riotous behaviour in a correctional centre and refuses to desist when called upon to do so; or
(iv) the inmate is endangering the life of or is likely to inflict grave injury to the corrections officer or to any other corrections officer or person and the use of firearms is the only practicable way of controlling the inmate. ...
(5) In every case when force is used a corrections officer shall use the minimum force necessary in the circumstances and the use of weapons, in pursuance of the provisions of this section, shall be as far as possible to disable and not to kill.
The Independent Police Complaints Board was established in 2015 to oversee the use of force by the Sierra Leone Police Force. The National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights also has some potential to act as a police oversight mechanism.An Audit of Police Oversight in Africa, African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF), 2008, p. 61.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In 2014, the Human Rights Committee stated in its Concluding Observations its regret at "continued reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by law enforcement personnel", and noted with concern the fact that “at the present, there are no official complaints of torture.”Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Sierra Leone's Initial Report, UN doc. CCPR/C/SLE/CO/1, 17 April 2014, §16.It regretted
the lack of concrete measures by the State party to thoroughly investigate and prosecute alleged cases of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials.
Also in 2014, the Committee against Torture stated in its Concluding Observations that it was
highly concerned about allegations of excessive use of force, including lethal force, by police and security forces, especially when apprehending suspects and quelling demonstrations, and about the broad threshold for the use of lethal force in section 16, paragraph 2, of the Constitution.
The Committee called on Sierra Leone to take
immediate and effective action to investigate promptly, effectively and impartially all allegations of excessive use of force, especially lethal force, by members of law enforcement agencies and to bring those responsible for such acts to justice and provide the victims with redress.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on Sierra Leone's Initial Report, UN doc. CAT/C/SLE/CO/1, 20 June 2014, §13.
It further urged Sierra Leone to
to make the necessary amendments in section 16 of the Constitution and the police rules of procedure to ensure that lethal use of firearms by law enforcement officials can only be employed as a measure of last resort and if strictly unavoidable for the purpose of protecting life, in accordance with the Convention, the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990).
It also called on Sierra Leone to
provide regular training to law enforcement personnel in order to ensure that officials comply with the above rules and are aware of the liabilities they incur if they make unnecessary or excessive use of force.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on Sierra Leone's Initial Report, UN doc. CAT/C/SLE/CO/1, 20 June 2014, §13.