Sierra Leone: Oversight body initiates Investigation over death of 17 month old in police cell

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

The Sierra Leone Independent Police Complaint (I PCB) has said that they have commenced preliminary investigations into the death of a 17-month Old Baby in Police Custody at Panlap Police Division in Makeni, Northern Sierra Leone.

This happened after the mother was detained with the baby by the police for allegedly stealing a hand bag.

‘’It is announced for the information of the public that the Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB) has commenced a preliminary investigation into reports of an alleged death of a 17-month old baby, while locked up with her mother in police cell at the Panlap Police Division in Makeni City on Thursday 23rd December, 2021,’’ IPCB said in statement on Monday.

According to the police over sight body, it said, the preliminary investigations is done in pursuance of section 3 (1) (a) of the Independent Police Complaints Board Regulations, 2013, which provides for an investigation into “the death of any person while in the custody of the police”; and section 9 which mandates the IPCB to “conduct an investigation on its own initiative”.

They added that the public will be kept fully informed of developments as and when they do occur.

Meanwhile Stop It – Sierra Leone, one of the leading human rights organizations working on women and children issues in a statement have called for an investigation into the death of the 17 month old baby adding that they were alerted on Sunday 26th December with rumours about the death of a 17 month old baby in a police cell in Makeni because her mother was being detained on allegations of stealing a handbag.

‘’The Organisation which is also operating in Bombali District as a subsidiary unit immediately investigated the matter and found that it was one of many isolated incidences of grudge that did not deserved detention of the suspect with her baby in custody while investigations were being carried out. The Organisation considers the situation very unfortunate but also vehemently condemns in all circumstances the police role in the affair,’’ the right group said in a statement.

The Right group noted that the action by the police as an institution has not only spurned negative reactions from rights groups but it has also painted the image of the country’s force ugly in their handling of human rights issues especially towards women and children adding it is in contravention of Article 30 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in accordance with the UN Standards for the Treatment of Female Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Rule 64), and Sierra Leone’s Bail Regulations 2018.

‘’Consequently, Stop It – Sierra Leone calls on the police to release the mother and for the government line ministries of Social Welfare and Gender to come to the aid of the victim with required support. As one of our operational areas, Stop It Bombali branch will continue to engage all relevant stakeholders in investigating the matter to conclusions and will provide support where necessary. Further, we recommend to the Government of Sierra Leone, particularly the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone to further press for charges in prosecuting those wanting, following full investigations on the conduct of the police, to face justice. In addition, we call on the Government to review all statutes dealing with small or irrelevant offences to be deferred to local authorities for redress,’’ Stop It –Sierra Leone further said.

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