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Cablegate: Prisoners Riot Over Delayed Justice

VZCZCXRO5937
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0443 3161239
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121239Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2978
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000443

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W (JHUNTER)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KJUS PHUM SL
SUBJECT: PRISONERS RIOT OVER DELAYED JUSTICE

1. On November 10, inmates at the Bo Prison rioted to protest
lengthy remands, adjournment of cases, and subsequent
prolonged detentions. Windows were broken and some prison
property destroyed, and the rioters threatened to lynch
prison officers; the Office of National Security's Provincial
Security Coordinator was ultimately called in to address the
situation when prison officials were unable to do so. The
rioters were pacified by the Security Coordinator, who
promised to investigate their claims, and the incident ended
with no injuries or fatalities.

2. The Bo Prison currently holds 66 remand prisoners, many of
whom have been remanded for years. The 35 trial prisoners
experience numerous case adjournments, which extends even
short trials by months or years. The prisoners noted that the
magistrate, who handles low-level cases, frequently adjourns
proceedings without explanation. They also stated that the
State Counsel rarely attends High Court, which lengthens
those trials as well. Though the Provincial Security
Coordinator promised to raise these issues at the highest
levels, he believes that improvements are unlikely, which
could lead to further violence.

3. Comment: Adjournments and delays are noted problems within
the Sierra Leone justice system, and is especially
problematic in the provincial areas where there are few
checks and balances on overburdened and inefficient court
officers. The UK-funded Justice Sector Development Program is
attempting to address these issues, but progress has been
slow. Given the poor prison conditions, which include
overcrowding and inadequate nutrition and medical care, this
small riot could be the first of many as prisoners demand
access to a system that seems ill-equipped to determine their
guilt or innocence. End Comment.
CRISS

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